Italy: Labour and Employment Comparative Guide

Last Updated: 7 August 2019
Article by Angelo Zambelli
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1 Legal framework

1.1 Are there statutory sources of labour and employment law?

The sources of Italian employment law include:

  • international treaties and European sources;
  • the Constitution, domestic laws and the Italian Civil Code; and
  • customs and practices.

Case law is not considered a source of law, since the courts are only supposed to apply existing legislation. However, in practice, case law plays an important role in shaping Italian employment law.

The most important labour laws are:

  • Law 300/1970 (the so-called ‘Workers' Statute'), which sets forth rules protecting the freedom and dignity of employees, and the freedom and dignity of trade unions and their activity within the workplace;
  • Law 604/1966 governing individual dismissals;
  • Law 223/1991 governing collective dismissals;
  • Legislative Decree 66/2003 on working time;
  • Legislative Decree 81/2008 governing health and safety in the workplace;
  • Law 2/2012 governing several employment-related matters, including dismissals and the mandatory procedure for notification of dismissals, as well as several other provisions concerning employment relationships;
  • Legislative Decree 23/2015 which introduced new protections against unlawful dismissals and which applies to all categories of employees – except for ‘dirigenti' (the highest category of employee – generally top managers or executives, who qualify as such according to the relevant definitions under national collective bargaining agreements) – who have been hired on a permanent basis as from 7 March 2015; and
  • Legislative Decree 81/2015 governing several contractual models (eg, fixed-term, staff leasing and apprenticeship contracts).

1.2 Is there a contractual system that operates in parallel, or in addition to, the statutory sources?

In addition to statutory sources, individual and collective agreements play a key role in the regulation of employment relationships.

Several (significant) employment-related matters are governed by national collective bargaining agreements and by collective agreements which are executed with works councils at company level.

National collective bargaining agreements are negotiated by employers' association on the one hand and trade unions on the other, in connection with different business sectors (eg, metal-mechanical, trade and tertiary, chemical and pharmaceutical, food). Among other things, such agreements establish the minimum economic and legal standards which are to apply to employees working in the relevant business sector.

There is no obligation that employment relationships be governed by a national collective bargaining agreement, unless:

  • both the employer and the employee join, respectively, an employers' association and a trade union that have executed a specific national collective bargaining agreement; or
  • both the employer and the employee have agreed that a specific national collective bargaining agreement will apply, either expressly (eg, through a clause in the employment agreement) or implicitly (ie, by applying the main and most significant clauses under a specific national collective bargaining agreement).

Bargaining agreements may also be executed at company level by the employer on the one hand and works councils established within its premises on the other. These agreements normally govern various aspects of the employment relationship, providing for conditions more favourable to employees than those under the applicable national collective bargaining agreement.

1.3 Are employment contracts commonly used at all levels? If so, what types of contracts are used and how are they created? Must they be in writing must they include specific information? Are implied clauses allowed?

Employment contracts (which are used whenever an employment relationship is executed, regardless of the category in which the relevant employee is classified) are subject to the contractual rules of the Italian Civil Code, which provide that a contract is valid if certain essential requirements are met.

Generally speaking, no mandatory formal requirements apply when executing employment contracts. However, although employment contracts may be executed either orally or in writing, the written form is highly advisable in order to serve as evidence of the existence and terms of the employment contract. If an employment contract has been orally executed, the employer bears the burden of proof regarding its terms and conditions. By contrast, if the contract has been executed in writing, the employee must demonstrate that its actual modalities of performance have deviated from those specified in the written employment contract.

That said, the written form is expressly required by law for the validity of certain contractual patterns or covenants (eg, fixed-term employment contracts with a term exceeding 12 days, non-compete covenants, probationary period clauses, agreements with temporary workers). Other employment agreements (eg, on-call contracts) must be executed in writing by law.

Even if the employment contract has been executed orally, the employer must nonetheless provide the employee with:

  • an undersigned communication in which the employer states that the hire has been registered in its mandatory books; and
  • within 30 days of commencement of employment, a document stating the main terms and conditions of the employment relationship, including:
    • the names and addresses of the parties;
    • the place of work;
    • the start date;
    • the duration of the contract (ie, whether fixed-term or indefinite);
    • the trial period, if any;
    • the employee's job title (including his or her level and job position) or a brief description of his or her duties; and
    • the applicable national collective bargaining agreement, if any.

If no national collective bargaining agreement applies or if the parties agree to deviate from its provisions, this document must also include the employee's wage, annual holiday entitlement and working hours, as well as the notice of termination due by each party.

2 Employment rights and representations

2.1 What, if any, are the rights to parental leave, at either a national or local level?

The current regime for the protection and support of parents is set out in Legislative Decree 151/2001.

A biological working mother is entitled to compulsory leave, which generally lasts from the beginning of the second month preceding the probable date of birth (so-called ‘antepartum maternity leave') to the end of the third month following the birth (so-called ‘postpartum maternity leave').

Allowing both parents to combine work with childcare, Legislative Decree 151/2001 provides for optional leave, which may be taken by either the mother or the father in the first 12 years of each child's life, extendable for up to three years if the child has a serious disability. Parental leave can be taken by the parents simultaneously or separately and for either a continuous or broken-up period.

Collective labour agreements can include provisions which allow optional leave to be taken on an hourly basis.

A father is entitled to ‘compulsory paternity leave' for five days in the first five months of his child's life, for either a continuous or broken-up period. He is also entitled to the period of postpartum leave which the mother would have taken (wholly or partially, depending on the period effectively benefited from by the latter) in case of:

  • the death or serious disability of the mother;
  • child abandonment by the mother; or
  • the grant of custody of the child to the father on an exclusive basis.

2.2 How long does it last and what benefits are given during this time?

Overall, mothers are entitled to at least five months' maternity leave, while fathers may be absent from work only during the first three months of the child's life.

Parental leave may not exceed a 10-month limit, but the right to parental leave can be exercised by each parent for a continuous or broken-up period not exceeding six months, unless there is only one parent (this limit is increased to 11 months if an employed father exercises his right to stay home from work for a period of no less than three months).

During maternity leave, female employees are entitled to 80% of their pay, which is covered by the Italian Social Security Authority (Istituto nazionale della previdenza sociale (INPS)); although the employer is usually requested to pay this sum upfront, it is subsequently reimbursed. Some collective agreements further provide for the payment of the residual 20% by the employer. Instead, working mothers and fathers are entitled to an allowance paid by the INPS equal to 30% of their regular pay until the child's sixth year of life for a total period of six months.

Economic protection has been partially extended to self-employed female workers, freelancers and agricultural entrepreneurs, para-subordinate and autonomous female workers registered in a special list maintained by the INPS.

National and often regional regulations also provide for maternity allowance and a family welfare cheque for mothers who do not work and whose family is in need.

2.3 Are trade unions recognised and what rights do they have?

Article 39 of the Italian Constitution states that "trade unions are free". This freedom is bi-directional: that is, it applies both to public law, with regard to relations with the state and public authorities; and to private law, with regard to relations with employers.

To avoid legislative intervention limiting collective bargaining freedom, trade unions are assigned to the private law sphere through their classification as non-recognised associations.

The main rights attributed to trade unions are:

  • the right to associate and perform any activity on behalf of represented employees;
  • the right to strike and to execute collective bargaining agreements; and
  • the right to be informed and consulted when specific events – as provided either by the law or by the collective labour agreements – occur, affecting the business carried out by the employer.

Union representation can be established in each production unit by works councils, which have, among other things:

  • the right to call meetings (including during working time);
  • the right to hold referenda and to post texts and announcements related to union matters; and
  • information and consultation rights on the occurrence of specific events (eg, transfer of undertakings and redundancy procedures).

Trade union managers are guaranteed paid and unpaid leave for the completion of their term and to participate in negotiations and trade union congresses or conferences.

Legal action against anti-union behaviour may be commenced by local bodies of trade union organisations if the employer's conduct ends up preventing or limiting the freedom of the trade union or the right to strike.

2.4 How are data protection rules applied in the workforce and how does this affect employees' privacy rights?

Employee privacy is regulated under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679) and Legislative Decree 196/2003, as amended by Legislative Decree 101/2018, which provides that personal data should be processed lawfully and in a transparent manner, collected for specified and legitimate purposes.

In the employment context, the employer may process employees' personal information to the extent that this is necessary in order to appropriately fulfil employment obligations and in accordance with the following rules:

  • observing the principles of data minimisation and lawfulness;

providing advance adequate information to data subjects;

  • securing employees' prior consent where this is required by law;
  • fulfilling the obligations set established by the Data Protection Authority when processing special personal data or judicial data; and
  • taking suitable security measures to protect data from unauthorised accesses.

Employers' monitoring of remote working is governed by Article 4 of the Workers Statute, as significantly amended by Legislative Decree 151/2015, which still prohibits the use of instruments specifically aimed at controlling employees. Equipment which could monitor employees is allowed, but only in the case of organisational, production-related or security needs, and after either an agreement has been signed with the works council or the public authority has granted authorisation. However, such rules do not apply to instruments or equipment used to perform employees' duties (eg, technological devices assigned such as smartphones, personal computers and tablets), which can be used without specific authorisation from public authorities or work councils.

2.5 Are contingent worker arrangements specifically regulated?

The use of contingent workers – also called ‘casual workers' – who provide occasional services is governed by Law Decree 50/2017, recently reformed by Law Decree 87/2018 (the so-called ‘Dignity Decree'), which has made it easier to use this type of contract in the tourism sector, as well as in agriculture and by local authorities.

This is a kind of work whereby an individual engages in work activities (possibly for a number of different employers) resulting in total annual remuneration of up to €5,000, provided that the work performed for one particular employer does not result in remuneration of more than €2,500 per year.

In addition, the employer cannot enter into this type of agreement with a worker who has previously worked for it within the previous six months as either an employee or an independent contractor. Casual workers further cannot be used within the framework of a service agreement or by construction companies.

Casual workers have special status because they are different from other employees: their salary can be freely set by the parties, subject to a minimum wage of €9 per hour of work, and they have no right to compare their treatment with other employees. However, if the contingent work is carried out in breach of the law, the casual worker might claim that he or she has the status of an employee and may therefore claim the same rights granted to employees in case of dismissal.

3 Employment benefits

3.1 Is there a national minimum wage that must be adhered to?

Italian law does not provide for a mandatory minimum wage.

This is generally set forth on a sector-by-sector basis by national collective bargaining agreements, which specify different minimum wages depending on the qualifications and level (eg, executive, middle manager, white collar or blue collar) of the employee.

If no national collective bargaining agreement applies (under Italian law, except in certain limited cases, there is no obligation that employment relationships be governed by a national collective bargaining agreement), reference must be made to Section 36 of the Italian Constitution, which sets forth the principles of proportionality and sufficiency, to which workers' remuneration must adhere.

‘Proportionality' means that the amount of remuneration must be quantified taking into account, in addition to the work performed, the quality of performance in terms of difficulty, importance and complexity, as well as the responsibilities associated therewith.

‘Sufficiency' means that the worker must be granted a wage which is sufficient to meet his or her needs and those of his or her family.

If no national collective bargaining agreement applies, the assessment as to the proportionality and sufficiency of the salary granted to an employee according to Section 36 of the Italian Constitution is carried out by the labour court, taking into account the minimum wages established under any national collective bargaining agreement applicable in the sector in which the employer operates.

3.2 Is there an entitlement to payment for overtime?

According to Section 2108, paragraph 1 of the Italian Civil Code, in case of performance in excess of ordinary working time, employees must be compensated for overtime in the form of remuneration at a rate that is higher than that payable for ordinary work.

For a long time, the rules on working time were set forth by Royal Law Decree 692/1923. Section 1 of this law decree fixed the maximum duration of regular working time at eight hours per day and 48 hours per week. Section 5 further set the maximum limits for overtime at two hours per day and 12 hours per week.

Legislative Decree 66/2003 has since replaced the regulations on regular working hours and overtime, implementing EU Directives 93/104/EC and 2000/34/EC, respectively. According to Legislative Decree 66/2003, collective bargaining agreements should regulate the main aspects of this matter. However, it further provides that:

  • recourse to overtime must be limited;
  • if no provisions on overtime are set out in the applicable national collective bargaining agreement, overtime is allowed, conditional on agreement between the employer and the employee, up to a maximum cap of 250 hours per year; and
  • in the absence of a national collective bargaining agreement, overtime is permitted in case of exceptional technical or production-related needs, force majeure or special events such as fairs (in this event, information obligations apply).

Generally speaking, national collective bargaining agreements provide a maximum yearly threshold for overtime and establish pay increases to which employees performing overtime are entitled.

3.3 Is there an entitlement to annual leave? If so, what is the minimum that employees are entitled to receive?

Section 36 of the Italian Constitution provides that "employees are entitled to… annual paid leave and cannot waive such right".

According to Section 2109 of the Italian Civil Code, employees are entitled to annual paid leave for a term set forth by law, by practice or by the application of a fairness criterion.

Legislative Decree 66/2003 specifies that, save for that set forth by Section 2109 of the Italian Civil Code, employees are entitled to at least four weeks' annual paid leave. Unless the applicable national collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise, two of those four weeks must be taken in the year in which they accrue; the remaining two weeks may be taken in the following 18 months. Annual leave must be taken by employees; payment in lieu is not possible, unless the employment relationship is terminated.

Generally speaking, applicable national collective bargaining agreements (if any – under Italian law, except in certain limited cases, there is no obligation that employment relationships be governed by a collective agreement) provide for annual leave for a term which is longer than the minimum four weeks specified under Italian law.

Employees are further entitled to the following bank holidays.

Bank holiday Date
New Year's Eve 1 January
Epiphany 6 January
Easter Sunday -
Easter Monday -
Liberation Day 25 April
Workers' Day 1 May
National Day 2 June
Feast of the Assumption 15 August
All Saints Day 1 November
Feast of the Immaculate Conception 8 December
Christmas Day 25 December
St Stephen's Day 26 December

3.4 Is there a requirement to provide sick leave? If so, what is the minimum that employees are entitled to receive?

According to Section 2110, paragraph 1 of the Italian Civil Code, in case of accident, illness, pregnancy or puerperium, if there are no legal provisions setting forth equivalent forms of social security, employees are entitled to the payment of remuneration or of an indemnity whose amount and term for payment are specified by law, by practice or by applying a fairness criterion.

Except for certain cases (eg, executive status employees), this indemnity is paid by the Italian Social Security Authority (Istituto nazionale della previdenza sociale (INPS)) or by the Italian Mandatory Insurance against Accidents at Work, depending on why the employee is absent from work.

Section 2110, paragraph 2 entitles the employer to terminate the employment contract if an employee's absence from work for any of the reasons outlined above exceeds the maximum term set forth by law, by practice or by applying a fairness criterion.

Generally speaking, this maximum term is set forth by the applicable national collective bargaining agreement (if any – under Italian law, except in limited cases, there is no obligation that employment relationships be governed by a national collective bargaining agreement), and varies according to the employee's seniority.

Section 2110, paragraph 3 clarifies that the term for which employees are absent from work for any of the reasons outlined above must be taken into account when quantifying seniority.

3.5 Is there a statutory retirement age? If so, what is it?

Pursuant to amendments introduced to the Italian pension system by Legislative Decree 201/2011 (converted into law by Law 214/2011), employees (either male or female) aged 67 (increased from 66 years and seven months as of 1 January 2019) who have made social security payments for at least 20 years qualify for a pension paid by the INPS.

Alternatively, the following employees may take early retirement at a reduced pension rate:

  • male employees who have made social security payments for 43 years and three months (increased from 42 years and 10 months as of 1 January 2019), regardless of their age; and
  • female employees who have made social security payments for 42 years and 3 months (increased from 41 years and 10 months as of 1 January 2019), regardless of their age.

Two other ways to retire are through:

  • the voluntary pension advance (anticipo pensionistico volontario – APE volontario);
  • the early temporary supplementary income (rendita integrativa temporanea anticipata – RITA); and
  • the so-called ‘100 quote' formula.

The APE volontario is a bank loan paid by the INPS to an employee who satisfies the following criteria at the time of making the request:

  • is at least 63 years of age;
  • will qualify for the standard pension within three years and six months;
  • has made at least 20 years of social seniority payments; and
  • does not have a disability pension.

The bank loan must be repaid by the employee with a 20-year levy on his or her future pension rate.

Employees who satisfy the following criteria can retire under RITA:

  • is no longer in employment;
  • will qualify for the standard pension within five years;
  • has made at least 20 years of social security payments at the time of the application; and
  • at the time of application, has been enrolled in and contributed to a provident pension fund for at least five years.

Or alternatively:

  • is no longer in employment;
  • has been unemployed after leaving work for more than 24 months;
  • will qualify for the standard pension within 10 years; and
  • at the time of application, has been enrolled in and contributed to a provident pension fund for at least five years.

The APE volontario and RITA constitute supplemental income pending retirement and recipients must be enrolled in a provident pension fund.

Pursuant to amendments recently introduced to the Italian pension system, employees are moreover entitled to take retirement under the so-called ‘100 quote' formula, which gives a special opportunity to retire to employees who are at least 62 years old and have made at least 38 years of social seniority payments.

4 Discrimination and harassment

4.1 What actions are classified as unlawfully discriminatory?

The Italian legal system contains a general constitutional principle of equality, based on citizens' equal dignity before the law, which prohibits all forms of discrimination and requires public institutions to remove all economic and social obstacles that de facto limit the equality of citizens and workers. The Constitution also expressly provides that working women have the same rights as men and are therefore entitled to equal pay for equal work.

In addition, Italian law more specifically prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the following grounds: sex, political opinion, union-related activity, religion, race – including nationality, ethnic or national origin and colour – language, disability, age, sexual orientation and personal beliefs.

Any action by the employer aimed at creating differential treatment on any of the abovementioned grounds is considered unlawful and discriminatory.

Discrimination may occur:

  • during the recruitment process (eg, selection, interview);
  • during employment (eg, remuneration, access to benefits, promotions, disciplinary procedures); and
  • in case of termination.

Discriminatory actions may be:

  • direct – that is, any action, agreement or behaviour that has discriminatory effect (ie, that accords less or more favourable treatment) against workers based on any of the abovementioned categories; or
  • indirect – that is, any action, criterion, agreement or behaviour which, although apparently neutral, creates a particularly disadvantageous situation for workers in any of the abovementioned categories.

4.2 Are there specified groups or classifications entitled to protection?

Specific protection is accorded to particular categories of workers who are considered more vulnerable and thus in need of strong regulation:

  • Age discrimination: In general, this is prohibited. Different treatment due to age may be acceptable for young or old workers or workers with dependants, if this is aimed at protecting them.
  • Sex discrimination: Women and men have equal rights to access the job market, professional training and working conditions. Only if gender is a necessary characteristic of a position is it lawful to ‘discriminate' between genders.
  • Disability discrimination: In general, this is prohibited. This protection further extends to employees with disabled relatives who need caring for. The prohibition does not apply if a disabled worker's recognised physical, mental or sensory disabilities might place him or her, colleagues or third parties in danger.
  • Religious discrimination: Any discrimination connected with personal beliefs (or lack of beliefs) or religion is forbidden. Only in case of occupational activities within public or private organisations based on religion or belief may a genuine difference in treatment not be discriminatory.
  • Race and ethnic discrimination: This is prohibited, unless specific legislative dispositions require a certain citizenship or nationality as a necessary condition for a particular type of job (eg, public service, army).
  • Union-based discrimination: Every worker within the working premises has the right to found or join a union, carry out union activity and participate (or not) in a strike (unless public essential services are concerned).

4.3 What protections are employed against discrimination in the workforce?

In addition to the general prohibition on discrimination in the workplace, Italian law provides special protection for some of the abovementioned vulnerable categories:

  • Sexual discrimination: In order to promote the representation of women in the workplace, the law provides for positive actions such as incentives for women, flexible work, promotion of vocational training and nurseries inside the workplace. The implementation of positive actions is governed by the National Committee for Equal Opportunities and the equal opportunity advisers appointed at national and local level. These bodies aim to promote equal opportunities between men and women and are involved in several procedures aimed at verifying potential discrimination against female employees. In addition, within public administrations and supervisory bodies of Italian listed companies, reserved quotas for women have mandatory application.
  • Disability discrimination: Workplaces and duties must be suitable for disabled employees. Employers must ensure that disabled employees can access facilities and are properly equipped to meet their needs. Public institutions may subsidise the adaptation of the workplace. Employers are also obliged to hire a certain percentage of disabled workers, in relation to the total number of company employees.
  • Religious discrimination: Workers cannot, under any circumstance, be obliged to reveal information about their religious beliefs. Furthermore, employees may ask companies to allow them to fulfil their religious mandates (eg, observing a different day of rest instead of Sunday or observing a particular diet in the canteen).

4.4 How is a discrimination claim processed?

Any discriminatory action taken by an employer against an employee is null and void. The claim against discriminatory action is processed by the labour court. With regard to the burden of proof, the employee is required to demonstrate only facts on which a presumption of discrimination can be based; it is then up to the employer to prove that there was no discrimination.

If the employment relationship is still ongoing:

  • ordinary claims for a declaration of invalidity of the discriminatory act may be brought;
  • an urgent proceeding may be commenced by the employee to obtain an immediate executive decision for cessation of the unlawful conduct, remediation of its effects and compensation for damages;
  • a special proceeding can be commenced independently by an equal opportunity adviser if a discriminatory action based on gender has collective relevance; and
  • an urgent proceeding may be commenced if the discrimination was caused by anti-trade unionist conduct, to obtain an immediate executive decision for cessation of the unlawful conduct and remediation of its effects. This must be commenced by the trade union, rather than the individual.

If the discriminatory act resulted in dismissal, claims can be commenced to obtain a declaration of invalidity of the discriminatory act, removal of its effects, compensation for damages and reinstatement of the employee.

4.5 What remedies are available?

In light of the above, employees (and other institutions so entitled in this respect) can bring claims for discrimination before the Labour Court.

The court may order the employer to stop the discriminatory conduct and remedy its effects, and determine a plan in order to prevent future discrimination. The court might also award damages. In general, there is no minimum or maximum amount of damages established by legislation, as this is usually determined at the discretion of the judge. In some cases, the amount of damages is specified by law; for example, employers that do not comply with the legal requirement to hire a certain percentage of disabled employees are subject to a penalty of €153.20 per day for each disabled worker not employed.

In case of unlawful dismissal based on discriminatory grounds, the court will consider the termination as null and void. All employees, including executives, who are dismissed for discriminatory reasons have the right to reinstatement with payment of lost remuneration from the date of dismissal until the effective reinstatement date, with a minimum of five months' salary.

4.6 What protections and remedies are available against harassment, bullying and retaliation/victimisation?

Harassment, bulling and retaliation/victimisation aimed at violating human dignity, resulting in intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive behaviour, including illegitimate reactions by employers to legitimate conduct of employees, or based on discriminatory grounds, are considered forms of discrimination.

Both while the employment relationship is effective and in case of termination of employment, the same forms of protection and remedies as apply in case of discrimination are also applicable in this regard.

In terms of claims for unlawful dismissal, although the sanctions are the same (dismissal is declared null and void and the employee has the right to reinstatement and compensation for damages), there is a difference between retaliation/victimisation that does not result in discriminatory action and actual discrimination. With regard to the burden of proof, in discrimination claims, if the employee establishes facts on which a presumption of discrimination can be based, it is up to the employer to prove that there has been no discrimination. By contrast, in case of retaliation/victimisation, the employee must also prove that dismissal was based on an intent to retaliate or victimise.

Harassment, bullying and retaliation/victimisation, when not based on discriminatory grounds, may still be considered a form of mobbing. Nevertheless, since Italian law does not include specific provisions on mobbing, in such cases a claim can be brought to court only where such behaviour also constitutes a criminal offence or other unlawful conduct relevant on a civil basis (eg, downgrading or professional deskilling).

5 Dismissals and terminations

5.1 Must a valid reason be given to lawfully terminate an employment contract?

During the probationary period, an employment contract may be terminated without giving a valid reason.

Once the probationary period has ended, an employment contract may be lawfully terminated by the employer only:

  • for just cause – that is, a breach by the employee whose seriousness prevents continuation of the employment relationship, even on a temporary basis (eg, theft of the employer's goods);
  • on subjective justified grounds – that is, a less serious breach by the employee (eg, unjustified absence from work); or
  • on objective justified grounds which relate to the production, the work organisation or its regular operations (ie, individual redundancies).

Moreover, employers with more than 15 employees are entitled to dismiss employees through a collective dismissal procedure. This applies whenever the employer – due to the reduction, transformation or shutdown of activities – intends to dismiss, within a 120-day term, at least five employees employed at the same production unit or at different production units within the same municipality (ie, collective redundancies).

Employment contracts with executive employees are governed by specific rules set forth by national collective bargaining agreements applicable to this category of employee, which generally provide that their dismissal must be ‘justified'.

Otherwise, employees are entitled to resign from the employment relationship at will, conditional upon compliance with the notice period set forth by the applicable national collective bargaining agreement.

5.2 Is a minimum notice period required?

Employees are entitled to the notice period specified in the applicable national collective bargaining agreement in case of the following:

  • dismissal notified through a collective dismissal procedure;
  • dismissal on justified grounds, either subjective or objective;
  • dismissal notified based on absence from work due to illness or injury which exceeds the relevant maximum term set forth by the applicable national collective bargaining agreement;
  • dismissal notified based on the employee's supervening professional unsuitability;
  • termination of the employment relationship due to the employee's death;
  • resignation for cause;
  • resignation served in certain protected periods (eg, during or after pregnancy, parental leave or adoption); or
  • resignation due to a change in working conditions after a transfer of business.

In these scenarios, the employer is entitled to exempt the employee from working during the notice period and pay him or her (or his or her heirs, in case of death) in lieu instead. This payment must be calculated taking into account the employee's base annual gross salary, together with any additional monthly salaries provided for by the applicable national collective bargaining agreement, variable compensation paid over the last three years and the value of fringe benefits granted to the employee.

Employees who resign voluntarily must give advance notice whose term is set forth in the applicable national collective bargaining agreement.

5.3 What rights do employees have when arguing unfair dismissal?

If the dismissal is deemed null and void (eg, if it relies on discriminatory reasons), the employee is entitled to reinstatement and payment of damages equal to at least five months' salary.

The remedies which apply where a dismissal is found unlawful vary depending on the employee's qualifications and seniority, as well as on the breach by the employer and its gravity.

For middle managers, white-collar workers and blue-collar workers hired before 7 March 2015, they are as follows:

  • reinstatement and payment of damages of up to 12 months' salary in case of no misconduct or misconduct which should have been sanctioned other than by dismissal as per the applicable national collective bargaining agreement, or where an individual redundancy has clearly not occurred;
  • payment of damages of between 12 and 24 months' salary in case of dismissal deemed unlawful for other reasons;
  • payment of damages of between six and 12 months' salary in case of breach by the employer of rules governing the notification procedure for individual dismissals; and
  • payment of damages of between 2.5 and six months' salary (to be increased up to 14 months for employees of a certain seniority) if the employer has up to 60 employees overall and up to 15 employees employed in the same production unit or municipality.

For middle managers, white collar workers and blue collar workers hired after 7 March 2015, they are as follows:

  • reinstatement and payment of damages of up to 12 months' salary if it is directly demonstrated that the misconduct on which the disciplinary dismissal is grounded did not occur;
  • payment of damages of between six and 36 months' salary if the dismissal is deemed unlawful for other reasons;
  • payment of damages equal to one month's salary per year of service, within a minimum and maximum threshold of two and 12 months respectively, in case of breach by the employer of rules governing the notification procedure for individual dismissals; and
  • payment of damages of between one and six months' salary, depending on the seriousness of the breach by the employer, if the employer does not meet the size requirements outlined above.

Executive employees are entitled to payment of a so-called ‘additional indemnity' established by the applicable national collective bargaining agreement (the greater the executive's seniority, the higher the amount of the indemnity).

5.4 What rights, if any, are there to statutory severance pay?

Upon termination of the employment relationship, regardless of the reasons for termination, employees are entitled to the following severance payments:

  • end-of-service allowance, which represents a deferred form of remuneration calculated by adding up, for each year of service, the total inclusive annual remuneration paid to the employee, divided by 13.5. The employee can choose for the end-of-service allowance to be paid:
    • into a specific fund managed by the Italian Social Security Authority (where the employer has 50 employees or fewer, the end-of-service allowance must be set aside in its financial statement and re-evaluated yearly); or
    • into an additional pension fund, either chosen by the employee or, in the absence of such choice, established by the applicable national collective bargaining agreement;
  • indemnity in lieu of accrued and unused holiday and leave, whose duration is set forth by the applicable national collective bargaining agreement; and
  • pro rata additional monthly salaries set forth by the applicable national collective bargaining agreement.

6 Employment tribunals

6.1 How are employment-related complaints dealt with?

Employment-related claims (including those brought by both permanent and fixed-term employees and agents and self-employed workers/independent contractors) must be filed with the labour courts.

Labour court proceedings differ from regular civil court proceedings in the following ways, among others:

  • A ‘fast track' is established for employment-related claims;
  • The duration of such proceedings is significantly shorter than that of regular civil proceedings;
  • The formal requirements are remarkably less strict than those for regular civil proceedings:
  • At the first hearing, the labour court is required to try to settle the case, providing the terms and conditions of the envisaged settlement agreement; and
  • The powers of the labour courts are significantly broader than those of the regular civil courts. The labour courts are ex officio entitled to:
    • order the taking of any evidence, even in breach of regulations set forth under the law;
    • require the provision of written or oral information to trade unions;
    • order access to the workplace; and
    • examine witnesses who are prevented from examination according to the law.

6.2 What are the procedures and timeframes for employment-related tribunals actions?

Once the claimant has lodged its claim, the labour court will schedule the first hearing date, to take place within the next 60 days. The defendant may file a defensive brief no later than 10 days before such date.

The parties must personally attend the first hearing, at which the labour court may examine them and will try to settle the case.

The labour court will orally issue judgment at the first hearing, unless it intends to appoint an expert or examine witnesses (who will be examined at the first hearing or in an additional hearing to be scheduled in the next 10 days).

In breach of the general rules on the burden of proof in regular civil proceedings, the labour court is ex officio entitled to:

  • order the taking of any evidence, even in breach of regulations set forth under the law;
  • require the provision of written or oral information to trade unions;
  • order access to the workplace; and
  • examine witnesses who are prevented from examination according to the law.

First-instance judgments may be challenged before the Labour Court of Appeal, whose judgments in turn may be challenged before the Supreme Court.

An accelerated procedure applies with respect to employment-related litigation in which the employee claims that his or her dismissal is null and void, and/or – where the employee was hired before 7 March 2015 – the unlawfulness of the termination by the employer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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