New amendments to the Employment and Industrial Relations Act on Fixed-Term Contracts

Act LVIII of 2020 amending the Employment and Industrial Relations Act published on the 11 December 2020, addresses issues raised in a judgement of the Court of Appeal decided on the 25 January 2019.

Waldemar David Galea Vs University of Malta

Mr Galea was employed with the University of Malta on a definite contract and filed an application in the Industrial Tribunal alleging unfair dismissal. The University of Malta argued that the Industrial Tribunal had no jurisdiction but the Industrial Tribunal decided that it had jurisdiction to decide on all cases involving unfair dismissal including with regard to contracts of a definite duration. The University of Malta filed an appeal and the Court of Appeal decided that the Industrial Tribunal did not have jurisdiction in such cases.

Termination of employment

The new amendments provide clarity in that the term “unfair dismissal” in the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, now specifically includes termination by the employer in respect of a worker of a contract of employment for a fixed term.

The provisions also specify that an employer who terminates the contract of service before its expiry, must pay a sum equal to one-half the wages that would have accrued to the employee in respect of the remainder of the time specifically agreed upon.

Good and sufficient cause

An employee may abandon a fixed term contract of service and an employer may terminate a fixed term contract prior to its expiry, without liability to make payment if there is a good and sufficient cause for such dismissal or abandonment.

The Industrial Tribunal – competence over definite and indefinite contracts

The Act provides in no uncertain terms that the Industrial Tribunal is competent to deal with cases relating to unfair termination of definite contracts of employment thus categorically obliterating all doubts previously raised.

IURIS Advocates has a team of lawyers who specialise in employment legislation who can provide assistance and additional information in this regard.