When is it OK to sign your employment contract?

The General Workers’ Union (GWU) has been campaigning for better working conditions since 1942. Since then, the union has achieved a lot, but that does not mean that all workers who work in the Maltese islands – both Maltese and foreigners – have the best working conditions.

At the end of 2020, there were 235,665 registered full-time workers in Malta. The number of foreign workers was 70,402, of which 38,406 were third-country nationals. The number of part-time workers who were also in full-time employment was 32,082, and the number of workers whose main occupation was part-time was 32,077.

Of those 235,665 workers, how many are treated appropriately, know their rights, and know what an employment contract should include and why?

GWU has been in this industry for years and has gathered enough knowledge to say that almost none of the workers have a clue about their rights. This is a shame since workers still have to deliver and hit their KPIs but most are afraid to speak up if something is wrong.

Almost none of the workers have a clue about their rights.

The union’s departmental secretaries and legal team can help employees review their employment agreement and find out what they are entitled to, their rights and obligations.

Employment agreements should contain the following information:

  • The commencement of employment together with the probation period, hourly and overtime rate detailing how and when they are payable:
  • Working and shifts hours:
  • In the case of a fixed or definite contract of employment, the expected or agreed duration of the contract period:
  • The number of paid holidays, vacation, sick leave and other leave offered by the organisation and what the employee is entitled to:
  • The employee’s conditions and fines the employer might impose:
  • The title of the role, grade and department:
  • The organisation’s notice period if it differs from what the law requires:
  • The collective agreement, if it exists.

Employees should never sign an employment contract that does not contain all of the above listed items, and are well explained, even if they are desperate for a job. The union team has gone through many contracts that violate workers’ rights. Still, it’s not always easy to reach an agreement with an employer, and sometimes the only options left are quitting one’s job or going to court, an option which does not guarantee a favourable outcome.

Why settle for anything less than what the law requires? Why settle for anything when you can have better working conditions? Some employers think they can get away with mistreating their employees, especially the weaker ones for whom it might be difficult to change jobs, mostly foreigners.

Regardless of how big organisations are, how many employees they employ, or whether they have been in business for years, that does not preclude some employers from trying to mistreat employees.

It is normal for employees to feel lost about their rights at their workplace, and that is why the union is there. That is why it is constantly analysing the world of work and its developments. That’s why workers have the right to belong to a union of their choice.

The digitalisation of various tasks and other changes can affect workers, lead to more stress and affect their personal lives. After working in the office, why do workers not have the right to rest and spend their days off with their families and friends? Why should they constantly worry about what is happening at the office or how badly they are being treated in their workplace?

The GWU team does not expect employees not to fail. Nor does it expect them to choose the right employer on their first try. That’s why GWU encourages everyone to seek help in case of doubt.


This article is part of a series in collaboration with the General Workers’ Union.

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