Crane Currency employees complain about “invasive” company vacation vacation policies, which deduct the days of home waiting for their swab test negative from their annual vacation.
A group of employees working at the company’s Ħal Far office told MaltaToday that Crane Currency has put in place a strict policy requiring all employees to provide a detailed view of their travel plans, including information on who with whom they will travel.
They will be asked to present a negative PCR test to the company within two days of their return to Malta, but they will have to stay at home until they get the result, which time will be deducted from their vacation.
Staff also reported cases where the company asked about the PCR test results of relatives who were in quarantine after meeting positive patients.
Several employees have expressed their rejection of this measure and asked the information and data protection officer to take action. The problem is that there is nothing the IDPC can do unless a formal complaint is filed that would reveal the complainant’s name and jeopardize that person’s employment with the company.
However, they have been advised not to provide any information about their vacation activities and with whom they will spend their vacation time.
The employees tried to contact the General Workers’ Union (GWU) through their appointed shop steward, but said they were out of luck.
“We’re scared of our vacation and some of us have had to cancel our trips as well because they don’t have extra vacation days for their PCR result period,” said one employee.
“We don’t want to lose our job, but that brings a lot of unwanted stress into an already stressful environment.”
A formal request for comment was made to the company, but no response was received in time for publication.
COVID data is personal data, says IDPC
The data protection officer Ian Deguara made it clear that no one can see the results of a PCR test unless they are legally entitled to do so. This is because COVID test results are medically sensitive data subject to relevant GDPR laws.
The GDPR stipulates that the processing of this data is generally prohibited with a few legal exceptions. Deguara explained that an employer could legitimize the collection of this data for preventive or occupational health purposes or to assess an employee’s ability to work.
“[Employers should] be able to demonstrate, among other things, that the data collection is serving a specific, explicit and legitimate purpose, ”he said.
For full GDPR compliance, employers should also provide their employees with a range of information set out in Article 13 of the Regulation.
“My general advice to employers is not to take the standard position and collect COVID-19 infection status data from employees without doing a proper and thorough assessment,” added Deguara. “Due to the risk-based approach envisaged in the GDPR, an employer who employs frontliners who are in constant contact with the public can have a more solid legal position on the basis of which the collection of such information can be legitimized.”
We need guidelines, insists GWU boss
Josef Bugeja, GWU’s general secretary, said the union was trying to strike the right balance between individual health rights and general worker safety.
However, he noted that clear guidelines were needed from health authorities to clear up the confusion surrounding the issue.
“We asked for an urgent meeting with the Employment Committee … but I think we need guidance from the health authorities,” he said.
Basically, according to Bugeja, the GWU will work to ensure that this “PCR vacation” is taken over by the company instead of the employee. He pointed out, however, that this mandatory smear is only required from abroad – if you have not traveled to Paceville but go to Paceville every weekend, you don’t have to take a smear, even if the risk of infection is high.
He also noted situations where people traveling from green countries are not supposed to take a smear test when they arrive, but when they return to work they must provide evidence of a negative PCR test result.
“It’s all about individual rights versus collective rights,” he said.