A public sector employee has spoken out about the massive dilemma he is facing over the government’s decision to impose self-quarantine on people returning to Malta from countries impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus, either lose close to €2,000 on a cancelled trip or lose two weeks vacation leave.
While public employees who return to Malta from heavily impacted countries (China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Iran and Northern Italy) before 28th February are eligible for quarantine leave, those who return from those countries after that date are not. While they are still obliged to self-quarantine for two weeks, this will be deducted from their vacation leave.
A public employee who had booked a holiday to Northern Italy a few months ago, way before the coronavirus had even been spotted in the region, has told Lovin Malta about his concerns.
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to go on the holiday anymore but I can’t afford to just throw away all the money I spent on flights, accommodation and transport,” he said.
He warned he won’t be able to submit a travel insurance claim as his insurance company won’t reimburse him for the flights unless the Maltese government decides to close flights to northern Italy.
While he agrees with the self-quarantine rule, warning that ignoring it would be unfair on elderly people who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus, he argued that quarantine leave shouldn’t be deducted from his annual vacation leave.
“I booked a week’s leave because I couldn’t afford a three-week holiday but if I go on my holiday I’ll be forced to spend two weeks at home, deducted from my vacation leave for the rest of the year.”
He also questioned whether this forced vacation leave will mean he will still be asked to work from home, as advised in a circular issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, and whether he will still be advised to answer his work emails and messages.
Yesterday, Malta’s union of nurses and midwives (MUMN) warned that quarantine leave is being automatically deducted from the vacation leave of their members in breach of the Public Service Management Code, which provides for the provision of special quarantine leave on full pay. The government denied it in a statement, stating is is untrue that quarantine leave of public employees will be taken from their vacation leave.
However, it later emerged that quarantine leave is only applicable for public employees who have visited impacted countries before 28th February.