Why are these reforms needed?
The Italian government is committed to reforming the labour laws in Italy in order to stimulate economic growth and employment.
This is, in fact, the beginning of a series of reforms planned for this year.
What is the impact of these reforms on employment in Italy?
This particular reform has made substantial changes to fixed-term employment contracts in Italy as a way of encouraging companies to take on more full-time workers.
In particular, companies in Italy cannot have more than 20 percent of their workforce on fixed-term contracts. Employers that are currently over this figure will have until the end of the year to comply. If they fail to comply by January 1st 2015 then they will face heavy financial sanctions.
There will be some exemptions to this regulation, such as companies with less than five employees, in addition to public and private companies operating in the scientific research field.
Another aspect of the regulations governing fixed-term employment contracts that has changed is the number of times this type of contract can be renewed. The law which was already in place dictates that the maximum length of any fixed-term employment contract that can be offered is 36 months. Within this timeframe, fixed-term employment contracts could only be renewed only once.
Under the new decree, which was officially made law on Monday, fixed-term employment contracts may be renewed five times within any 36-month period.
Are there any specific provisions in the decree aimed at women in the workplace in Italy?
Yes. In fact, there is an important new legislation which will give women on fixed-term employment contracts the same maternity leave rights as women on permanent full-time employment contracts.
In addition, their maternity leave will be counted as time worked. This is a very important concept in that employers, when looking to take on new full-time staff, are required by law to first give those opportunities to employees and former employees that have worked with them in the previous 12 months. This new regulation will ensure that new mothers will be included in this process.
Youth unemployment in Italy is a hot topic at the moment. Do the new labour reforms address this at all?
Yes. There are several points within the reform that specifically relate to apprenticeship contracts that are often offered to new and young workers in Italy.
The decree has set a limit which prohibits Italian companies, with more than 50 employees, from having over 20 percent of their workforce on apprenticeship employment contracts. The previous legislation had imposed this rule on all companies with more than 30 employees. This will hopefully stimulate smaller companies to take on more apprentices in the long run.
In addition, the decree has opened the door for a new seasonal fixed-term apprenticeship contract, which should provide opportunities for those that must balance work experience with education.
However, it should be noted that there is a question as to whether greater flexibility in the Italian labour market can make a real impact on unemployment.
What are your views, as Italian employment and labour law specialists, on these new labour reforms?
We feel that these reforms reflect the government’s commitment to add flexibility to the Italian labour market and the laws which govern it.
It will take several months to fully understand the impact of these new regulations; however, within the decree, there is a requirement for the government to perform a review after 12 months of the impact of these new regulations.
This review will study not only the impact on employment – it will also look at the impact on demographics such as age, sex, and professional qualifications, in addition to studying which types of businesses were effected.
As indicated previously, these Italian labour reforms are among the first of many to come.