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FAMILY

How much parental leave do you get in Italy?

For those considering raising a family in Italy, here's what the law says about how much time new parents can take off work - and how it compares to other countries.

How much parental leave do you get in Italy?
How maternity and paternity leave fares in Italy compared to other countries. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

The Italian government has introduced various measures to help people have a family over the past year, in a bid to reverse the country’s declining birth rate and to make having children more feasible.

Among the reforms is the introduction of the universal single allowance (assegno unico e universale) – a payment granted per child from the seventh month of pregnancy – and more paternity leave for fathers.

READ ALSO: How families can claim Italy’s new universal single allowance

These steps form part of the country’s wider strategy – the so-called Family Act – which aims to make starting a family in Italy more affordable.

In Italy, parental leave entitlement varies hugely for mothers and fathers. Five months of mandatory maternity leave are granted for mothers, while dads get just ten days.

Those five months of maternity leave can be split before and after the birth and are paid at 80 percent of the woman’s salary, while paternity leave is paid at 100 percent of the father’s salary and can be taken from the birth date of the child, within the first five months of its life.

Dads could be entitled to the five months of maternity leave if they end up being the sole carer, such as instances of maternal illness or abandonment.

But does more time off for dads bring Italy in line with parental leave on a global scale? And how generous is the system for mothers compared to other countries? Here’s what you’re entitled to and how Italy stacks up internationally.

Maternity leave

Looking at the absence from work you’re allowed for having a baby in Italy, the split between maternity and paternity leave is significant – as is the case for most countries.

In Italy, maternity leave (congedo di maternità) “is the period of compulsory abstention from work granted to employees during pregnancy and postpartum,” according to Italy’s national welfare system INPS.

READ ALSO: Italy heading for demographic ‘crisis’ as population set to shrink by a fifth

On an EU level, European legislation stipulates that mothers are entitled to a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave, of which two are mandatory.

However, countries are able to make their own exceptions and Italy has exempted freelancers, who are not obliged to take any time off for maternity leave at all.

Aside from this category who can choose to forego maternity leave, five months of abstention from work are compulsory, making Italy’s one of the highest mandatory maternity periods in the EU.

This can begin two months before the birth with three months after or one month before and four months afterwards. In certain cases, maternity leave can begin even earlier than two months before the due date if the Local Health Authority (ASL) orders it, if the pregnancy is high risk or if the mother’s job deems it necessary to stop working.

READ ALSO: Ten things you need to know about giving birth in Italy

For women who would prefer to take the whole five months of leave once the baby is born, they can now do so since a law allowing this was passed in 2019. This means you can take zero leave before the baby is born, as long as your doctor certifies that this would cause no harm to you or your baby.

You are also entitled to five months’ maternity leave if you adopt, which is granted from the day the child enters your family.

Within these five months of maternity leave, you are entitled to 80 percent of your wage, which is paid by your employer. If you’re a freelancer, you’re also entitled to 80 percent of your income, based on an average calculation of what you make over 365 days and it’s paid directly from INPS.

International maternity leave

Going back to work when a baby is between three and five months old may seem very early to some, or generous to others.

Looking at Italy’s neighbours, some European countries are on a par. According to the latest EU data for March 2022, Spain grants 16 weeks’ maternity leave; this comes at 100 percent pay reported an international HR study.

Germany instead provides 14 weeks of leave at 100 percent pay. However, in Germany you can request up to three years of parental leave with an allowance available for most of that.

Therefore, at the base level, they both grant more monthly pay for less time off, as does France at 16 weeks for 100 percent salary.

Denmark offers 18 weeks’ maternity leave and how much of your salary you receive in this time depends on your contract, reaching as much as €599 per week.

Austria provides 16 weeks of leave at 100 percent of your salary, while Switzerland grants 14 weeks of leave at 80 percent salary.

So far, so comparable. But when you look at countries such as Finland, Sweden and Norway, you might consider swapping Italy for a Scandinavian country to raise your offspring.

How Italy’s maternity leave compares internationally. Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash

Finland offers both parents 164 days, making that just over 23 weeks (not including weekend days) each. Although this parity is intended to shift childcare to a more balanced responsibility rather than it falling solely on the mother, parents can transfer 69 days to the other parent. Therefore, maternity leave could be bumped up to 233 days.

Norway gives mothers a whopping 49 weeks at 100 percent of their salary, or 59 weeks at 80 percent of their salary.

And the real reason you may decide you don’t mind trading in Italian sun for the Swedish chill is the generous parental leave of 240 days per parent, with all but 90 days able to be transferred to the other parent.

Therefore, one of you could have 330 days off at 80 percent of your salary. Unpaid leave is also available until the child is 18 months old.

Now outside the EU but still close in proximity is the UK, who also offer a comparatively very generous 39 weeks of maternity leave at 90 percent pay for six weeks with varying lower amounts after that, depending on the employer. A further 13 weeks are allowed unpaid to make up one year of maternity leave.

READ ALSO:

But before you write off Italy for being stingy with precious time off for you and your newborn, spare a thought for your fellow American mums.

Maternity leave is controversial in the States, as being one of the richest countries in the world, you’d think that time off for having a baby would be ample and fair.

How much time you can spend with your bundle has financial, career and health implications. Photo by Garrett Jackson on Unsplash

But the total time granted to mothers to recover physically and emotionally after the birth, and to focus on caring for a new child, is zero.

The United States is one of only a handful of countries in the world to offer no paid maternity leave, according to data from the World Policy Analysis Center. And the rest of this category are poor or middle income nations.

The federal law only allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave for having a baby, according to the Family and Medical Leave Act and even then, only some workers are eligible for that.

Paternity leave

The amount of time fathers can have off following the birth of their child has increased in Italy. Paternity leave (congedo di paternità) is now ten days and can be taken at 100 percent of a dad’s salary, paid by INPS – but this is only available to employed workers.

Dads are also entitled to the same leave as the mother if the child is no longer under her care, for example in case of illness or abandonment.

Ten days may not sound like a great deal to people from many other countries. Fully paid leave for new fathers was only introduced in Italy in 2012, and Italy is lagging far behind Spain and Scandinavian countries, offering new dads weeks if not months of paternity leave.

But it marks a considerable rise from just four days, reaching five days in 2019 and going from five days to seven days in 2020. Since last year, the government-paid paternity leave became the current ten working days, with an optional extra day if the mother gives up one day of her statutory maternity leave.

Paternity leave in Italy can be taken by the father up to the fifth month of the child’s life and the ten days can be taken on a non-continuous basis – that is, you can split up the ten days across those five months.

Dads in Italy can now take 10 days paternity leave if they are employed workers. Photo by Mikael Stenberg on Unsplash

However, it’s already in line with a coming rule of a right to two weeks’ paternity leave across member states. This was introduced in August 2019 in a new directive on work-life balance for parents and carers.

“Member States have until 2 August 2022 to adopt the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the directive,” states the EU.

Based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Italy comes far down the table for paternity leave on an international scale.

According to the chart below, based on a report updated in October 2021, Italy is way below the OECD average for the amount of weeks of father-specific leave.

How much paid paternity leave fathers can claim according to country. Source: OECD

Spain offers a considerable 16 weeks to new fathers at 100 percent pay, making it equal to maternity leave and therefore one of the most gender equal countries when it comes to parental leave.

After Spain, Finland is the most generous for fathers in the EU with nine weeks of leave granted, while France instead gives fathers 28 days off at 100 percent of their salary.

Switzerland introduced paternity leave in 2021, giving dads two weeks at up to 80 percent of their salary.

The UK permits dads two weeks of paternity leave, but there is also a shared parental leave option where parents can split up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.

In Austria, all employed dads are allowed to take one month of unpaid leave, while Sweden’s parental leave is noted above – at 240 days or 330 if mum went back to work earlier and transferred some of her leave over.

23 out of the 27 European member states recognise paternity leave, making Italy and most of Europe much more favourable to their American counterparts, who again, get zero paid leave.

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MONEY

Italy ranked among worst in Europe for tax burden on families

Working parents in Italy face some of the highest rates of taxation among developed countries, according to a new international report.

Italy ranked among worst in Europe for tax burden on families

Italian employees pay one of the highest rates of tax relative to income of all countries included in a new study by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), coming only behind Belgium, Germany, Austria and France.

The OECD report measured the ‘tax wedge’ or tax burden faced by both the employee and the employer in each country last year.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

The figure includes income tax paid by workers, and social security contributions, which in Italy are paid by both the employee and employer.

According to the findings, Italy’s tax wedge is especially high for families with children, compared to a single worker with no dependents, ranking fourth-highest in this case among the 38 OECD member countries.

Only France, Finland and Turkey came higher.

In most of the countries studied, there are tax benefits for families with children. That’s because “most OECD countries provide benefits to families with children through cash transfers and preferential tax provisions,” reads the report.

READ ALSO:

But Italy recorded lower than average reductions, with a decrease of just 8.6 percentage points for family benefits – less than the OECD average of 10 percentage points.

That meant Italy ranked as having the fourth-highest tax wedge for an average married worker with two children, amounting to 37.9 percent in 2021, while the OECD average is 24.6 percent.

The Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help families with the cost of living, including by introducing the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale).

However, this payment replaces various so-called ‘baby bonuses’, meaning the government is scrapping lump sums of hundreds of euros previously paid to help new parents cover the cost of starting a family.

Looking solely at the net tax that a worker pays on income, the same category of employee paid an average tax rate of 18.3 percent in 2021, compared with the 13.1 percent OECD average.

In other words, the take-home pay of an average married worker with two children in Italy, after tax and family benefits, is 81.7 percent of their gross wage, compared to 86.9 percent for the OECD average.

The discouraging figures come after a recent report estimated the total cost of raising a child in Italy up to the age of 18 at €321,617.

For a single employed person with no children, Italy had the fifth-highest tax wedge, slipping slightly from fourth place in 2020.

The tax wedge came to 46.5 percent in 2021 for single workers, while the OECD average tax wedge was 34.6 percent.

READ ALSO: How much parental leave do you get in Italy?

The OECD also reports that, in Italy, contributions and income tax account for 84 percent of the tax wedge, compared to 77 percent on average.

Employment taxation has bounced back for most countries in 2021 following the Covid-19 pandemic, the findings showed.

“Increases to the tax wedge in 2021 have more than offset the sharp declines recorded in 2020 and have seen the tax wedge rebound to higher levels than in 2019, before the pandemic,” the report stated.

Taxation rates for Italian workers remain relatively high despite employment taxation reforms in 2021 that included cutting income tax for lower earners.

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