Recommendations not implemented: Primary School teacher on a career break not allowed to work temporarily in the private sector

In terms of Article 22(4) of the Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman, Mr. Anthony C. Mifsud, and the Commissioner for Education, Chief Justice Emeritus Vincent A. De Gaetano, have sent to the House of Representatives the Final Opinion on a complaint lodged by a primary school teacher who wished to work in the private sector while on a career break.

Summary of the Case

The complainant, who resides in Gozo and is a primary school teacher currently on a career break, filed her complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office after having exhausted all other possible avenues. For years previously, she had regularly commuted from Gozo to Malta and back to attend to her teaching duties on the main island. She is currently fifth on the list of primary school teachers waiting to be deployed to Gozo. As a primary school teacher in government service and with very young children, the only work-life balance measure available to the complainant was the “career break,” as envisaged in item 2.3 of the Manual on Work-Life Balance Measures.

To keep in touch with the education sector and because the career break entailed a substantial diminution of income for the family, the complainant sought temporary employment (on a definite contract) in the private sector (a church school). Permission was repeatedly refused.

The Commissioner for Education concluded that by denying the complainant’s possibility to work on a definite contract (whether full-time or part-time in a church school, the complainant has been the victim of maladministration in terms of Art. 22 of the Ombudsman Act.

The Commissioner recommended that:

  1. That the complainant be allowed to work at least part-time and on a definite contract in the private sector in the educational field in Gozo even though benefitting from a career break; and
  2. The last two paragraphs of item 6.2.3.1 of the Public Service Management Code be revisited to ensure that they do not undermine the whole purpose of the various work-life balance measures and the career break.

Outcome

Both the People & Standards division within the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry for Education indicated, for reasons that the Commissioner considers to be unfounded, that they did not intend to implement the recommendations made in his Final Opinion.

In March 2022, the Ombudsman and the Commissioner brought the case to the Prime Minister’s attention. Since no action was taken, the Ombudsman and the Commissioner sent the report to the House of Representatives for its attention.

Documents:

23.02.22 – Final Opinion

09.03.22 – Letter from the PS&D OPM

16.03.22 – Letter from Permanent Secretary – MEDS

17.03.22 – Letter to Prime Minister – May 2021

21.04.22 – Letter to Mr Speaker

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