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Employment Law in Italy

The Italian Constitution sets out a number of principles relevant to employment law, such as non-discrimination and equality, fair pay, equal pay for women and men, and rights to join trade unions and participate in strikes. The Civil Code (Codice civile), which brings together the main civil law rights and norms, contains a “book” on employment. This deals with the nature of the employment relationship and the duties of the parties, along with matters such as termination of contract.

Numerous individual laws and legislative decrees govern specific aspects of employment relationship. The most important include:

  • Law no. 300 of 20 May 1970, known as the Workers’ Statute (Statuto dei Lavoratori), which deals with basic workers’ rights, including in respect of trade unions

  • Law no. 604 of 15 July 1966 on termination of employment

  • Legislative decree no. 81 of 15 June 2015 on various types of employment contract

  • Legislative decree no. 66 of 8 April 2003 on working time and rest

  • Legislative decree no. 151 of 26 March 2001 on maternity and parental leave

  • Legislative decree no. 198 of 11 April 2006, no. 215 of 9 July 2003 and no. 216 of 9 July 2003 on equality and non-discrimination

  • Legislative decree no. 81 of 9 April 2008 on health and safety.

Case law, and especially that of the Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione), plays a role in interpreting employment legislation.

Pay and conditions for a large majority of Italian employees are set by collective agreements, notably at industry level, and the minimum wage rates set by industry-level agreements apply to all employees in the sector concerned. In addition, national cross-industry agreements between trade union confederations and central employers’ bodies regulate matters such as workplace employee representation and bargaining structures across the private sector. Given the prevalent role of collective agreements, individual employment contracts often play only a relatively limited part in determining pay and conditions.

The Civil Code divides employees into four categories — senior managers (dirigenti), middle managers (quadri), white-collar employees (impiegati) and blue-collar employees (operai) — while industry-level collective agreements generally contain job-classification systems, whereby there are various levels of job within the four legal categories. Employees categorised as senior managers are not covered by employment legislation in certain areas, including working time and aspects of unfair dismissal, and are covered by separate rules in others, including fixed-term contracts.

This topic deals only with the private sector.

Temporary Covid-19 crisis measures (as at 21 March 2022)

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a national state of emergency applied during most of 2020 and 2021 and ends on 31 March 2022. During much of this period, the Government made extended use of an existing public “wage integration” (cassa integrazione) system (often known as the “social shock absorbers”) as a furlough-type instrument to subsidise the wages of employees temporarily laid off or working reduced hours as a result of restrictions on economic activity. A number of temporary changes were made to employment legislation, such as: a ban on dismissals on economic grounds during most of 2020 and 2021; removing the requirement that employees must consent to “smart working” (see “Smart Working”); and special parental leave for employees whose children could not attend school. Most of these temporary changes have been revoked as at 21 March 2022, though a few still have effect (eg more flexible rules on the renewal or extension of fixed-term contracts apply until the end of September 2022).

In 2021, the Government introduced a “green pass” scheme, restricting access to many venues and activities, including most workplaces, to those who can produce an official certificate indicating that they are vaccinated against Covid-19, have recovered from it or have recently tested negative. The green pass is due to be phased out by 30 April 2022. From 15 February until 31 March 2022, employees aged 50 and above must have a “super” green pass — certifying that they are vaccinated or have recovered — in order to attend work (vaccination is generally compulsory for all individuals aged at least 50).

Employment Law in Italy: Quick Facts
  • During recruitment and selection, employers are prohibited from enquiring about any matters that are not relevant to assessing the aptitude of job applicants to perform the job in question. Recruitment and Selection

  • Employers with 15 or more employees are required to employ a certain number or proportion of people with serious disabilities. Recruitment and Selection

  • There is a statutory maximum probationary period of six months. Recruitment and Selection

  • The maximum permitted duration (including any renewals) of a fixed-term contract is generally one year but contracts may last up to two years in certain circumstances, such as replacing an absent employee. Employment Contracts

  • Employees may work on the basis of an “intermittent work” or “on-call” contract, whereby they make themselves available to work for an employer and are called on to work when needed, on an intermittent or periodic basis. Employment Contracts

  • Most aspects of remuneration are governed mainly by collective agreements, which cover around eight out of 10 employees, and legislation has a relatively little role to play in this area, eg there is no statutory minimum wage. Pay and Benefits

  • Statutory normal weekly working time is 40 hours (any hours worked beyond this limit count as overtime) and employees must not work more than a total of 48 hours per week, calculated on average over a reference period, generally of four months. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Employees must generally be granted a rest break of at least 10 minutes after working for six hours, and are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 hours and a weekly rest period of at least 36 hours, usually including Sunday. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • An employer may require part-time employees to perform a certain amount of “additional work” in excess of their contractual normal hours. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Employees are entitled to at least four weeks of annual leave per year. Working Time, Rest and Holidays

  • Working parents are entitled to take maternity leave (five months), paternity leave (10 days) and parental leave (generally six months in the period up until the child’s 12th birthday), usually with an entitlement to social security benefits. Parenthood and Work-life Balance

  • Employees are entitled to a variety of types of leave and time off to provide care, and deal with family and personal matters, such as marriage. Parenthood and Work-life Balance

  • Discrimination in relation to employment is prohibited on grounds including sex, race, ethnic origin, religion, personal belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, politics, language and trade union membership or activities. Equality and Discrimination

  • Employers are required to take measures to prevent sexual harassment, and to maintain a working environment where everyone’s dignity is respected and personal relationships based on equality and mutual respect are encouraged. Equality and Discrimination

  • Employers must not dismiss or discriminate against employees because of their trade union membership or activities, or their participation in strikes. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • In business units with 16 or more employees, trade unions are entitled to set up representative bodies (known as RSUs or RSAs) with various entitlements, including information and consultation on certain matters. Industrial Relations and Collective Rights

  • Employers have a general duty to take the measures necessary to protect employees’ “physical integrity and moral personality” and have numerous detailed obligations in the field of health and safety at work. Occupational Health and Safety

  • Employees must be represented in OHS matters by safety representatives, elected by employees or appointed by trade unions, depending on the size of the establishment. Occupational Health and Safety

  • In general, an employer requires a “justifiable reason” to dismiss an employee with notice; the reason may be either “subjective” (usually misconduct) or “objective” (redundancy). Termination of Employment

  • An employer may dismiss an employee without notice if there is a “just cause” (normally gross misconduct) that does not allow the continuation, even provisional, of the employment relationship. Termination of Employment

  • Employees are generally entitled to receive a statutory “end-of-relationship indemnity” (worth around 7.4% of the employee’s total pay during employment with the employer) when employment ends, for any reason and by any means. Termination of Employment

  • Employees who have at least five years’ service with their employer are entitled to take unpaid training leave, up to a maximum of 11 months’ leave during an employee’s whole working life. Other Key Issues