Education Minister concurs with findings by Commissioner of Education

Instructs a local tertiary education institution to pay the recommended compensation

The Commissioner for Education has recently investigated a complaint lodged by the father of a full-time seventeen year old female student at one of Malta’s tertiary education Institutions.  The student had sustained an injury while carrying out duties in a private establishment during work placement.  This work experience formed an integral, compulsory and important part of her course requirements.  The father requested the Institution to declare the accident to be an injury on duty and to reimburse the expenses for the relative treatment, “including those required in the future”.  The Institution had replied that while it had an insurance policy covering its employees, there was no such insurance in place which covered students during their work placement.  The Institution was however ready “as a gesture of good will to pay medical bills incurred up to that point, but as a matter of policy could not commit itself to pay for future expenses”.  The student’s father disagreed and insisted on future payments as well as reimbursement for income lost from summer work which his daughter was unable to carry out because of the injury.

Following his investigation, the Commissioner concluded that the Institution was responsible for the damage sustained by the student and her parents.

The fact that the student suffered the injury as a result of the tasks assigned during the work placement was never disputed and there was an indirect admission that the task which led to the injury was not particularly relevant to her studies.  However, no evidence (e.g. medical certification) was presented as to any permanent disability or claim for future loss of earnings.  The Commissioner was however satisfied regarding the claim for loss of earnings already incurred in the summer immediately following the accident.  The Commissioner further considered that the Institution should have ensured that it had in place an insurance policy to cover such eventuality – something which it did after the accident.

While accepting that the Institution could not accept liability for any future and indeterminate expenses, the Commissioner held it responsible for the actual damages sustained by complainant, including proven medical expenses and loss of future earnings as a consequence of the injury.  He therefore recommended that the Institution compensates the student by a sum of €2,545 which covers the complainant’s medical expenses (€241) and loss of earnings (€2,304) for the summer immediately following the injury.

While accepting to pay the sum of €241 for medical expenses the Institution reiterated its non-acceptance of liability on its part.  It respectfully disagreed with the Commissioner’s recommendation to compensate the complainant for potential loss of earnings.  Therefore in line with Section 17 D of the Ombudsman Act, the Commissioner referred the relative documentation to the Hon Minister for Education and Employment, including a copy of the Final Opinion on the complaint, as well as subsequent correspondence from the Institution. The Hon Minister, after perusing the documents, informed the Head of the Institution that he considers that the recommendation made in the Final Opinion was “fair and reasonable and [the institution] should proceed to pay this sum”.

The Commissioner welcomed the Minister’s direct intervention to uphold the complainant’s justified request.

A case summary of this investigation can be accessed here

Media Releases