1. For how long are employers expected to retain their employees if there is a work shortage, and can they change employment status once they have applied for a scheme?
The duration of the schemes is as indicated in the handbook. These are a work in progress and Government may amend or introduce new schemes depending on how the issue develops over the coming months. Everyone is sailing uncharted waters in these circumstances.
2. How can one can retrieve and find the NACE code number related to their business activity?
The Covid Wage Supplement application form allows you to enter the company’s VAT number and the NACE code comes up automatically. The NACE code can also be found on the VAT certificate.
If the NACE code does not correspond to the current economic activity and needs to be amended:
- Contact NSO on [email protected] to obtain the right NACE code
- Insert the new NACE code on the VAT return portal (using your e-ID)
- Apply for the Covid Wage Supplement Scheme and explain the change of NACE code in the application form
3. What happens if companies within a group have different NACE codes?
Each company will be eligible to apply according to its particular NACE code. If it applies for benefits for employees, then these employees will have to be registered with Jobs Plus as being employed with that company.
4. Can an employer employ persons to replace those who are classified as vulnerable persons and who are absent from work?
Yes, preferably under a definite period contract, or through subcontracting. Vulnerable persons will be entitled to have their job back once they are cleared to return to work.
5. Can vulnerable employees be made redundant?
Vulnerable persons cannot be made redundant on the basis that they are vulnerable. If the company is resorting to redundancies, the normal procedures of redundancies, including that of last in first out, have to apply.
6. If a pregnant employee (who is now classified as a vulnerable person) is still in her probation period, can an employer terminate her job?
An employee cannot be terminated during probation on grounds of pregnancy. Also, if a pregnant employee is terminated, a reason for termination has to be provided even during probation.
7. If an employee applies for the parent’s benefit, does s/he fall under unpaid leave?
8. If a business is constrained to reduce operations due to lack of service provision by a third party, (e.g. delivery of products or components) will such business be eligible for any benefits?
Unless the sector falls under Annex A or B, companies cannot apply under the Covid Wage Supplement Scheme. However, companies that are not listed and have been drastically affected should present their case to Malta Enterprise by sending an email on [email protected] Annexes A and B could be amended from time to time.
9. What’s the situation about definite contracts? Should the employer treat these contracts differently from indefinite contracts?
Definite period contracts, by definition, have to be honoured by both employer and employees.
10.Is it legal if an employer just decides to reach a mutual agreement with his/her employees to reduce their monthly salary, or waive their salaries for a number of months accordingly, during COVID-19?
Conditions of employment can only become less favourable by agreement with the union (where applicable) and subject to approval by the DIER.
11.Can employers claim any financial compensation, for products which they had to throw away because of forced business closure directed by Government? (like products consumed by hotels, restaurants, bars, etc)
No. There is no legal right as this is a public health matter.
12.Can an employee benefit from two schemes at the same time? (i.e. from the wage supplement given by his employer, and from the vulnerability medical benefit which he/she can apply for it directly)
Employers/employee should make use of only one scheme, as double-financing is not permissible. E.g. if company applies for employee A under the covid wage supplement, and employee A now received the letter that he/she falls under the Medical Benefit – the company should inform Malta Enterprise that employee A should be removed from the Covid Wage Supplement application form.
13.What happens when an employer is already benefitting from a wage supplement for an employee, and the employee becomes listed as a vulnerale person?
In such cases, the eligibility for a wage supplement stops and the employee will be on unpaid and applies for the medical benefit.
14.a) Can an employer, first apply for reduced hours for his/her employees with DIER, and after getting the permission to do so, apply for wage supplement for his/her employees?
b) If yes does this mean that the employer will just be asked to top-up pro-rata the wage of his employees only if it exceeds the 800 euros?
The €800 and the top up will be computed on a pro rata basis.
15.When a company will be permitted by DIER to operate on reduced hours, (3-day-week, or 4-day-week,) will this somehow effect the employees’ original contract of employment?
Working on reduced hours is not a permanent measure and the DIER only gives authorisation for a period of four weeks, subject to extension. Therefore the contract of employment prevails.
16.Are all benefits, both those managed by the Malta Enterprise, and Social Security, are gross, net, taxable, non-taxable? And how these are being paid? Are they all being paid backdated?
Payment for the schemes starts as at the date of effect as announced. Any income which is included in the payroll is subject to tax. Employers should refer to payroll implications here: https://cfr.gov.mt/en/News/Pages/2020/COVID-Wage-supplement-Payroll-Implications-NOTICE-TO-EMPLOYERS.aspx
17.Should the Government wage supplement appear on the employee’s payslip?
Yes and the employees' portion of NI has to be deducted from it.
18.What happens when an employee tests COVID-19 positive and has consumed all his/her sick leave entitlement?
Whenever an employee exhausts all sick leave entitlement, then the employee will automatically be on unpaid leave for the duration of the sickness period.
19.Is a company eligible to apply for Malta Enterprise grants if the company has stopped all operations and closed down business while making all employees redundant?
No, companies who have made their staff redundant are not eligible to apply for grants managed by Malta Enterprise.
20.Can an employee resign from his/her job during the period when the employer is receiving the wage supplement?
Yes. An employee is free to tender his/her resignation at any time.