Pregnant employees are entitled to five months’ maternity leave, from the second month prior to the due date to the third month after birth. The last three months can be extended to seven months in specific cases. Social security provides pay replacement benefits. Any work that might be considered harmful is forbidden during pregnancy. During maternity leave, employment is suspended and seniority is protected.
Italian law also provides other leaves, such as adoption leave, paternity leave, and parental leave. It also provides short-term leaves such as wedding leave or leave linked to public and jury duties, family circumstances, or education.
The parties cannot modify the individual contract terms and conditions unless the relevant amendments provide for a more favorable treatment of the employee. The Jobs Act has amended the provision regarding the change of an employee’s tasks and duties so that unless agreed upon otherwise with employers, employees are entitled to maintain their salary—with the exception of task-related indemnities—even if their tasks are reduced.
According to Article 2125 of the Civil Code, written non-compete covenants are allowed provided that:
- Adequate compensation is granted to the employee
- Duration of the agreement does not exceed three years for normal employees and five years for executives
- It is circumscribed from a business and territorial standpoint
Italian law does not provide specific criteria with regard to identifying adequate compensation and the scope of activity or territory. Therefore, in case of disputes, the court determines such criteria on a case-by-case basis.
The employee must voluntarily agree to teleworking (working from home). Teleworkers are entitled to the same rights as employees performing the same tasks and duties on the company’s premises, including with respect to training and career opportunities. Several NCAs provide the general regulatory framework concerning employees working from home. More specific rules may be agreed upon at the local and/or company level.
Non-EU/EEA Nationals—The Quota System
Admission of non-EU foreign workers is subject to a mechanism of quantitative selectivity based on yearly quotas for new entries. They are meant to regulate the admission of third-country nationals and their access to the Italian labor market by combining a purely quantitative selectivity with some elements of qualitative selectivity.
The government determines annual quotas of new inflows through a Prime Minister Decree (Decreto Flussi). The quota decree is published in the Official Journal and starts some days after the implementation phase. The whole implementation process of the quota system is basically made up of three main steps:
- Authorization requests presented by employers to the Immigration Single Desk (ISD)
- Visa request by prospective migrants in their country of origin
- Request and delivery of the stay permit for working purposes
Employers have to request authorization to hire a foreign worker living abroad to the ISD. In the application file, the applicant employer is expected to submit a so-called stay contract (Contratto di soggiorno) committing to guarantee adequate lodging for the requested worker and to fund travel costs for his/her repatriation in case of expulsion before the contract expires. In addition, the contract has to include the work contract’s details, which must comply with existing collective contracts for the specific sector/occupation in which the requested worker will be employed. Once both the labor authority (Direzione Territoriale del Lavoro) and local state police office (Questura) have made all of the checks, the authorization (nulla osta) may be delivered to the applicant employer. The whole procedure should take 40 days from the date of application.
Once the nulla osta is delivered to the employer, he/she sends it on to the individual foreign worker, who must present him/herself at the Italian diplomatic representation in his/her country of origin and request a visa for working purposes.
The nulla osta will be valid for six months, and during this period the visa may be issued.
Stay Permit Issuance
Within eight days of his/her arrival, the foreign worker must sign the stay contract presented by the employer at the ISD and simultaneously apply for the stay permit (permesso di soggiorno) for working purposes. The Questura will issue the stay permit. The stay permit has the same duration as the employment contract, with a maximum of two years, and is renewable.
Exemptions for Extra-Quotas Entries
The admission of some categories of workers is explicitly exempt from the quota system’s quantitative limits. In particular, specific professional profiles can be admitted without any quantitative cap to regulate their inflow (for example, managers or highly skilled staff members of multinational/foreign companies, university lecturers and professors, translators and interpreters, and professional nurses). Despite the lack of explicit quantitative limitations, the admission of workers in these categories is still subject to the authorization (nulla osta) granted by the territorial ISD, even if admission procedures have been further simplified for specific categories.
Stay permits have a maximum duration of two years, in case of fixed-term contracts, or an unlimited duration in the case of open-ended contracts.
Specific Types of Contracts
Part-time employment contracts must be in writing and specify the hours of work (e.g., by day, week, month, and year). Pay and other entitlements of part-time employees are normally pro-rated to those applicable to full-timers in the same job entitlement. Ancillary clauses can be added to part-time contracts, allowing employers greater flexibility:
- Elastic clauses (clausole elastiche) permit an employer to increase working time
- Flexible clauses (clausole flessibili) permit an employer to vary working hours during the day
Under legislative decree No. 368/2001, companies can hire employees on a fixed-term contract for arrangements limited by time. Fixed-term contracts can last up to 36 months, including any extension. NCAs normally set quantitative limits. Alternatively, the law states that the overall number of fixed-term contracts may not exceed 20% of the workforce hired on permanent basis. Fixed-term contracts cannot be used to replace workers on strike or to replace employees temporarily laid off or involved in collective dismissals over the past few months.
On-call job contracts (lavoro a chiamata o intermittente) under legislative decree No. 276/2003 provide that an employee declares his/her availability to work over a certain period of time, during which he/she can be called in–even for a few days only–with short-term notice. The individual contract may provide that the employee is bound to work if called by the employer. In this case, in addition to the normal remuneration paid for the working activity currently carried out, the employee is eligible for an additional 20% of the wage set by the NCAs. This contract must be drafted in writing.
Apprenticeship (apprendistato, legislative decree No. 276/2003) is an open-ended contract for vocational training. The employer can hire apprentices within certain quantitative thresholds depending on the number of employees hired and is required to ensure that the apprentice acquires professional skills and qualifications.
Temporary Agency Contracts
Temporary contracts (contratto di somministarzione di lavoro) on a fixed-term or open ended basis can only be agreed upon with qualified employment agencies. Workers must benefit from the same legal and economic conditions available to employees of the contracting company. Employers may not use staff supply contracts to replace workers on strike or to replace employees temporarily laid off or involved in collective dismissals in the previous few months.
The overall number of temporary contracts may not exceed 20% of the workforce hired on a permanent basis unless collective bargaining set a different threshold.
End of Employment
Dismissal requires written notice, and individual dismissals of employees are subject to certain restrictions. Open-ended contracts can be terminated without any compensation or additional sanction when there is just cause (giusta causa) or objective or subjective justified grounds (giustificato motivo). Just cause means a very serious breach (e.g., theft, serious insubordination) or any other behavior that seriously undermines the trust relationship between employee and employer.
Justified grounds means either:
- Subjective justified grounds, consisting of a less serious breach by the employee (e.g., failure to follow important instructions, willful misconduct, repeated unjustified absences from work)
- Objective justified grounds, consisting of an objective reason related to the employer’s need to reorganize its production activities or workforce setting
Termination of Fixed-Term Contracts
If one of the parties terminates the contract before its expiration date and without just cause, the other party may be awarded proper compensation. In the event of early termination by the employer, compensation would customarily amount to that which the employee would have accrued up to the contract expiration date.