Answer ... Employment contracts are commonly used at all levels. The details will typically vary, depending on the grade and nature of employment and on the nature of the industry in which the employer operates.
Contract type can vary. Typical contracts will be either for an indefinite term or for a fixed term, and full time or part time (or full time with reduced hours). The use of casual contracts (whereby an employee is engaged to work on demand) is increasing and new legislation is likely to be enacted to regulate these forms of contracts in view of the new EU Directive 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions adopted by the European Council on 14 June 2019.
For each contract type, different rules will apply – mainly in relation to the duration of employment, the conditions that must be satisfied to terminate such a contract and the consequences of termination. Specific legislation exists to regulate the conditions and limitations of use of fixed-term contracts (and their potential automatic conversion into an indefinite term contract), and the use of part-time employment.
Employment contracts need not necessarily be in writing. However, where no written contract is signed, a private sector employer must provide the employee with some minimum information in accordance with the Information to Employees Regulations (SL 452.83). A contract must also, at a minimum, contain details such as:
- the date of commencement of employment;
- the period of probation;
- the normal rates of wages payable;
- the overtime rates of wages payable;
- the normal hours of work;
- the periodicity of wage payments;
- in the case of a fixed or definite contract of employment, the expected or agreed duration of the contract;
- the paid holidays, and the vacation leave, sick leave and other leave to which the employee is entitled;
- the conditions under which fines may be imposed by the employer;
- the title, grade, nature or category of work for which the employee is employed;
- any notice periods to be observed by the employer and the employee;
- the collective agreement, if any, governing the employee’s conditions of work; and
- any other relevant or applicable condition of employment.
Additional rules apply if the employee is employed to work abroad or is an outworker.
These regulations, and the information which employers must give to employees, will be amended in the near future in view of the aforementioned new EU directive.
Of particular relevance is that Chapter 452 of the Laws of Malta includes a provision intended to ascertain a minimum level of protection for employees. In summary, if any contract (including a collective agreement) provides for any conditions of employment (including conditions relating to the termination of the contract) which are less favourable to the employee than those specified in the law, such conditions shall be deemed substituted by the minimum employment conditions provided at law. This is a special derogation from the general civil law principle that a contract is deemed to be the law between the parties.
Maltese law does not expressly regulate implied clauses in employment contracts. However, certain obligations are deemed to arise by implication, such as the obligation of an employee to act in the best interest of the employer – an implied obligation which has often been upheld by the Industrial Tribunal and courts despite the lack of any stipulated term.
Maltese law also caters for temporary agency worker arrangements, regulated by the Temporary Agency Workers Regulations (SL 452.106). This means that a worker who has entered into a contract of employment or an employment relationship with a temporary work agency will be assigned, whether on a regular or an irregular basis, to a user undertaking to work temporarily under its supervision and direction. Specific rules apply to this type of arrangement seeking to protect the worker during an assignment. No employment relationship is created with the user undertaking. Rather, even during an assignment, the worker remains an employee of the temporary agency – this being any natural or legal person that enters into contracts of employment or employment relationships with temporary agency workers and that assigns, whether on a regular or irregular basis, temporary agency workers to user undertakings to work there temporarily under their supervision and direction, whether or not such activity is the main or ancillary activity of the temporary work agency.