The Employment Contract
Maltese Labour Law is essentially based on the contractual agreement entered into between employer and employee, provided that the statutory conditions of employment are respected. Thus, whereas certain conditions of employment are strictly regulated as a matter of law, other conditions are left entirely up to the parties to agree upon, as long as these are also considered to be objectively reasonable. Where the minimum conditions of employment are established by law or regulation, only those provisions that are more favourable to the employee are considered as being legally valid and enforceable. Collective agreements work in the same way, binding the employer party to the agreement and the members of the trade union negotiating on the employees’ behalf. Individuals not belonging to the trade union in question may also agree to be governed by the terms of the collective agreement.
If the period of employment exceeds one month and the employee’s working hours exceed eight hours per week, the employer is bound to give the employee within 8 working days from the commencement of employment, either (i) a written contract of employment, or (ii) a written statement of minimum conditions, which must be furnished to the employee. Such information is expected to include such basic things as the normal rates of pay, overtime rates, hours of work, place of work and leave entitlement. Wages should be paid at regular intervals not exceeding 4 weeks in arrears. Different periods of pay can be agreed in a collective agreement.
Contracts of employment may be entered into for a fixed term or for an indefinite term. A fixed term contract can be successively renewed up to a maximum period of 4 years after which the employee shall be considered to be under a contract of indefinite duration. The exception occurs when the employer has justifiable reasons for retaining the employee on a fixed term contract. An employee whose fixed term contract has expired and is retained in employment will also be considered to be under an indefinite contract if the employer does not produce a new contract of service within 12 days following the expiry of the previous contract.
A caveat worth making in the context of contracts of employment for a fixed term is that if the parties would like to terminate the contract prior to the expiry of the established term, the terminating party has to pay to the other a penalty which is established by law which is a sum equal to half the wages that the employee would have earned in the remaining period of employment.
The first 6 months of each employment contract constitutes probation, unless the parties agree to a shorter term. By way of exception to this rule, in the case of contracts of service, or collective agreements in respect of employees holding technical, executive, administrative or managerial posts whose wages are at least double the applicable minimum wage, such probation period is of 1 year unless a shorter period is agreed upon in the contract of service or in the collective agreement. During the probation period employment can be terminated by either party without assigning any reason, provided that at least 1 week’s notice of termination is given by the terminating party to the other party where the employment relationship has exceeded 1 month.
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