Last March as soon as the pandemic broke out Government had promptly made a strong effort to ensure that everyone works from home to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Prior to the outbreak, telework was restricted to a small number of employees, often parents of young children. While in certain entities within the public sector this facility was quite diffused, in the private sector it was very limited. 
Consequently, government had rolled out a series of incentives through which private companies were granted financial assistance to encourage employees work remotely. These schemes included a refund of up to €500 per worker, to alleviate the costs of installing the necessary equipment.
The initiative found strong support not only from unions but also from other social partners. Apart from being a family-friendly measure, telework offers other advantages such as reducing traffic. Last March, toxic emissions had dropped by 70 percent.
UĦM Voice of the Workers in April had called on government to clinch the golden opportunity brought about by the pandemic to extend this temporary arrangement on permanent basis.
Unfortunately, when the first wave was over Government made a drastic change in direction so much so that these incentives were put aside arguably to give the impression that life was back to normal.
Aware of this fact and buoyed by the strong sentiment among its members who were being deprived of remote working without a valid reason, UĦM piled further pressure on telework particularly in its 2021 Budget proposals. These recommendations were meant for Government to discuss with the social partners telework schemes on permanent basis.
UĦM also insisted that telework should not be given at the expense of reducing allowances. Experience suggests that telework often results in better productivity.
Unfortunately, UĦM’s proposals fell on deaf ears as the Budget made scant reference to the issue with just one mention in the 106-page speech – to extend an existing scheme in Gozo.
This shortcoming is even more baffling in the context of the current situation which is more alarming than ever as the death toll has exceeded 80 and the active cases constantly hover around 2,000. Ironically, at this point in time it seems it is harder to get telework, than ever before!
Keeping in mind that remote working will be norm in the near future, and that Malta’s healthcare system could collapse if cases continue to soar, remote working is the solution to face this pandemic whose end is hopefully months away. May common sense prevail.