Employment ambiguity rectified

Case Notes investigated by the Commissioner for Health

The complaint

A labourer who, for the last 20 years, was receiving his salary partly from the Department for Health and partly from the University of Malta, complained with the Office of the Ombudsman, that he does not really know who his employer was.

He reports for work at the University of Malta and performed cleaning duties at the Faculty of Health Sciences. Although he worked 40 hours a week, his work was not considered as full time and his employment contract was extended on a month by month basis.

The complainant, applied unsuccessfully for several posts to regularise his position, with the last attempt was for the post of messenger at the University of Malta. The complainant asked this Office to investigate his case and help him to regularise his employment situation.

Facts and findings

Since the complainant received his salary from two different entities, the Commissioner asked for the employment information from both entities. The Director for Human Resources at the University of Malta stated that, the complainant was never employed by the University of Malta.

Following some enquiries, with the Department for Health, it transpired that the complainant had been listed on the Department for Health’s records as a Health Attendant Trainee for more than 20 years. Although he reported to work at a faculty which falls under University of Malta, his salary was always paid by the Department for Health on confirmation of his attendance by the relevant authorities. From these enquiries it resulted that during the same period, he was carrying out cleaning duties with the Faculty of Health Sciences. In his correspondence, the Director of Human Resources Management and Development at the University of Malta confirmed that the complainant was receiving from the University, a ‘top up’ allowance on humanitarian grounds.

The Director for Human Resources & Administration at the Ministry for Health, the Elderly and Community Care, confirmed that the complainant was employed with the ministry.

From further investigations, it transpired that the complainant was the only Health Assistant Trainee left and for the past years he had been given duties in connection with laboratory and class room practice, both at the Pharmacy Department at the University of Malta and at the Institute of Health Care.

A memo dated 15 November 2005, signed by the Assistant Executive Director at the Institute of Health Care, described the complainant as a person “that can be trusted to give a full day’s work performed to the best of his abilities.” His commitment to work was described as “cares deeply for his work and is constantly on the job without the need of much supervision”. The Assistant Executive Director said that at the Institute of Health Care, he was regarded as one of their best-loved workers because of his performance and good relations with the staff. He also remarked that the complainant, suffered from a slight tremor condition which does not interfere with his work, but which made it difficult for him to find an alternative employment should his services be terminated. Taking all this into consideration, he recommended that in order to regularise the complainant’s position, he should be engaged as Laboratory Operator.

Conclusions and recommendations

In a letter sent to the Rector of the University of Malta, the Commissioner for Health explained the situation of the complainant quoting the memo extracted from his personal file.

The Commissioner argued that since the employee concerned, worked full time at University, he was of the opinion that the University should appoint him as a full time employee.

It was also suggested that since the complainant suffers from a slight tremor as stated in his personal file, the Disabled Persons Employment Act would facilitate his request.

In his reply, the University Rector, informed the Commissioner that the University Staff Affairs Committee will review the case.

Outcome

Following the requests and the lengthy representations by this Office, the University Council on the recommendations of the University Staff Affairs Committee agreed that the complainant becomes a full time University employee.

The University Council, appointed the complainant, as a full time Labourer until the retirement age, benefiting from an increased salary and conditions, and above all, employment stability.

Case Studies