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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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PROPERTY

PROPERTY: Is this the end of Italy’s building ‘superbonus’?

As state funds for Italy's popular building 'superbonus' have already been exhausted, Italian authorities are reportedly considering halting any further extensions to the discount scheme.

PROPERTY: Is this the end of Italy's building 'superbonus'?

The Italian government is considering yet more changes for Italy’s so-called building ‘superbonus 110‘, as the allocated budget for the building incentive has already been exceeded, while renovation projects continue to wait in a queue.

According to the latest data from ENEA (Italy’s national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development), the approximately €33.3 billion that was earmarked for the scheme until 2025 has already gone over by some €400 million.

That makes a total of €33.7 million in claims up until May 31st, 2022.

This means that not only have the Superbonus funds run out, they have also been claimed in excess, potentially meaning that the government could ask for the money back.

In the two years since it was introduced, the building discount scheme has given homeowners the chance to claim a tax deduction of up to 110 percent of the cost of renovation work.

READ ALSO: Nine things we’ve learned about claiming Italy’s building ‘superbonus’

Building jobs covered by the bonus are related to making energy-efficiency upgrades and reducing seismic risk, with the aim of kickstarting Italy’s post-pandemic economic recovery and its construction sector.

The credit transfer system is hampering accessing Italy’s ‘superbonus 110’. Photo by Guilherme Cunha on Unsplash

But the scheme has been beset with delays due to a raft of reasons, including its popularity creating soaring demand, supply chain issues, fraudulent claims, multiple changes to its rules and regulations and a blocking to the credit transfer system – that is, the way people access the government funds to pay for the building work.

These setbacks have caused some homeowners to abandon their plans altogether, or have left many in the middle of works concerned about whether they’ll able to finish their renovation projects in time.

Despite the changes and blockages, however, the bonus has in some way been heralded as a success, considering the vast amount of claims already made.

But what does that mean for those still stuck in the process with works waiting to start or not yet completed?

Property owners who have benefited in part from the subsidies for building renovation work could see their construction site stopped and their funding demanded back, as construction companies are unable to collect the credit.

READ ALSO: Italy’s building superbonus: What’s the problem with credit transfers?

Although no official government statement has yet been made, Italian media reports indicate that, after its latest extension, the authorities don’t intend to roll on the scheme any further beyond 2022 for owners of single family homes.

There have been multiple deadline extensions for this category of property in response to ongoing delays, but the government has ruled out any further lengthening to the current timeframe, reported Il Sole 24 Ore.

As things stand, single unit home owners have until September 30th to complete 30 percent of the overall works, with a final deadline of December 31st, 2022 for all renovations to be completed.

Without further financing and an unblocking of the credit system, those carrying out renovation jobs could find themselves with stalled construction sites, half-finished homes or having to give any claimed money back.

Claiming Italy’s superbonus has been mired by delays and bureaucracy. Photo by Laughing Cynic on Unsplash

The risk to both companies and individuals has prompted criticism from various sectors, as jobs, futures and a continuing stock of energy inefficient houses hang in the balance.

READ ALSO: How to stay out of trouble when renovating your Italian property

“If the government wants the death of the superbonus, it should come and say so… knowing that it is telling companies to go bankrupt,” stated the president of the Productive Businesses Commission, Martina Nardi.

Earlier this month, the CNA (Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato e della Piccola e Media Impresa), which represents Italian small business owners, said some 33,000 businesses are at risk of bankruptcy due to blockages.

Calls to unblock the credit transfer system and overcome the stalemate continue as impending deadlines cause increasing alarm and frustration.

Opening up the credit transfer system would allow construction companies to convert their credit into liquidity, that is, actual money, and thereby complete works already started.

The National Confederation of Craftsmen and Small and Medium Enterprises has spoken of difficulties on the part of “thousands of companies in the construction sector that are unable to transfer tax credits linked to bonuses for the redevelopment of buildings due to the freezing of the market”.

In other words, projects continue to face blockages until building companies can be sure that they’ll receive the money they were granted.

READ ALSO: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

In an open letter to Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi, one architect described the situation as an “almost unprecedented liquidity crisis” that is pushing the country to “the brink of the deepest economic and social crisis ever seen and managed”.

“It has been two years of tribulation, this we can say today, that have turned genius into monstrosity due to the constant changes, corrections and adjustments that keep everyone in suspense,” wrote Daniele Menichini.

The government has been criticised for doing the opposite of what they stated with the superbonus, instead causing further economic downturn. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

“The situation that is looming at this time is of uncertainty and insecurity, in which society will hit a wall because of the blocked credits and the blocking of all those projects that were about to start,” he added.

While the government has expressed no intention to refinance the scheme beyond 2022 for single family homes, a glimmer of hope remains via an opening up of credit in a further expected amendment to the superbonus.

READ ALSO:

Easing the bottleneck would ensure that at least the projects that will meet the 2022 deadlines can be financed and completed.

To do this, the government is reportedly considering extending the ability to obtain credit to other parties besides banks, such as construction companies themselves. In doing so, it removes one extra bureaucratic hurdle and would unlock the current standstill due to many banks no longer buying credit.

The question of how the authorities will foot the bill for the already overrun budget still remains, with some reports suggesting an extra financial boost from the government will be needed until the end of 2022.

Other possibilities point towards allowing firms to carry over their credit surpluses until next year, to overcome the obligation to offset the credit this year.

Meanwhile, some categories of building have until 2025 to claim state funds with declining amounts available each year, but the future financing of which still isn’t clear.

The Local will continue to provide updates on this.

See more in our Italian property section.

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