Between January and June, Jobsplus inspectors carried out 1,909 spot checks at workplaces around Malta – and they found that one in five workers were working illegally.
Out of them 4,600 workers interviewed, 990 of them were employed irregularly, with over half of them being found to work in the hospitality industry, employed in hotels and restaurants.
In some cases, Jobsplus took action against the employer, while others ended up in court due to their infringements.
Mario Xuereb, the Jobsplus labour services section head, said that nearly half of the illegal workers were working in restaurants, hotels and entertainment establishments, while others were working in the construction, services and sales industries.
“When illegal workers are found, we talk to the employer. Our remit as Jobsplus is to speak with the employer more than with the worker because it is the employer’s responsibility to make the engagement form and ensure his workers are regular,” Xuereb told TVM.
He continued by saying that some employers were not sending an engagement form to Jobsplus when employing new workers.
“In cases of third-country nationals, it is also an infringement due to lack of employment licence, or when workers are not employed according to the employment licence. This means that if the employment licence says a worker may work as a waiter, he cannot work as an electrician,” he pointed out.
The standard procedure for employees who are found to be employing someone illegally is that they are given a short amount of time to regularise the situation. If they do not by the deadline given, they will face an administrative fine.
Xuereb said that employers who didn’t regularise themselves were referred to the police and end up in court.
This year, no employers were taken to court as the courts are dealing with a three-year backlog of cases.
The current situation reflects the state Malta finds itself in where shortages in the local labour pool have sparked a high demand for foreign workers. All non-EU workers need to obtain a work permit, which are renewable every year, to work legally but this process has often been criticised for being overly lengthy and bureaucratic.