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'Tredicesima': What is the 13th salary in Italy and how is it calculated?

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
'Tredicesima': What is the 13th salary in Italy and how is it calculated?
Italian employees can count on an extra paycheck this month to cover festive spending. File photo: PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

At this time of year, many Italian employees are awaiting their 13th or even 14th salary instalment. How does this work - and who gets it?


There may be 12 months in a calendar year, but for employees in Italy there are often 13 paychecks.

As December payday approaches, almost 34 million people in Italy are looking forward to getting double their usual salary thanks to the tredicesima, or ‘thirteenth’.

While people from Anglophone countries like the US and UK are unlikely to be familiar with the concept of getting paid a double salary in December, similar systems do exist in some other European countries, including Switzerland.


Who gets a 13th salary and when?

This payment is due to all workers in both the public and private sector with an employment contract, either fixed-term or open-ended. Pensioners also get a 13th payment in December.

This means the self-employed, including freelancers and contractors, do not get a 13th payment.

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According to Italy's Patronato website, thirteenth salary instalments are fully paid by the employer, while the payment for pensioners comes via the state social security agency, INPS.

There is no fixed date for receiving the payment, but it generally comes before December 20th. The exact terms and conditions will depend on the company and the sector.

For those working in public administration, the tredicesima is set to be paid along with the 12th salary instalment in December.

Not a bonus

It might sound like Italian employers are handing out generous end-of-year bonuses, and it is in fact sometimes referred to as a gratifica natalizia, or Christmas bonus.

And while it is no doubt helpful (and very pleasant) to get a lump sum in your bank account at the end of the year, technically the tredicesima is not an extra perk but just another way of dividing up an employee's standard salary.

Having it paid in this way is an expectation, and it's a compulsory part of all employment contracts, unless employees request otherwise.

It is believed to have begun as an optional Christmas bonus, but in 1937 it became a requirement under Italian law for certain types of employers, eg. factory owners, to give all manual workers a 13th payment in December. The rule was then extended to cover all employees, and from this point the 'extra' sum was included in the annual salary as standard.


How is it calculated?

There's no one standard way of calculating this payment under Italian employment law. As with other payment terms, it all depends on the individual collective labour agreements made between industry groups and trade unions in each sector.

Generally, it's a fixed sum equal to one-twelfth of the gross salary received during the year, without taking into account any overtime or bonuses.

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Deductions may be made from the payment due to absences which affected the gross salary amount, though this is not affected by, for example, certified sickness absence or parental leave.

Why not just pay 12 salaries?

The idea behind this system is that the 13th instalment paid out in December (in effect, two months’ salary at once) will help pay for Christmas expenses and other end-of-year bills.

But some companies and sectors do pay higher monthly wages (in 12 installments) instead. Individual employees can also request to be paid this way, even if 13 payments is standard in their sector.

Millions of people in Italy will get an extra salary payment in December to help pay for Christmas shopping and other end-of-year costs. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

And some employees even get a quattordicesima, or 14th payment, usually paid in June to help cover the cost of a lengthy Italian summer break - though this is more unusual and, unlike the 13th, it's not a legal requirement for employees in any sector.

Again it depends on your contract, but a 14th salary instalment is a perk which is generally only available to certain state employees, high earners, or those with gold-plated pensions.


What about bonuses?

Bonuses are independent of the 13th payment and depend on the sector and the employer.

Italian law doesn’t contain any requirement that employers provide a bonus, which may consist of money, shares, stock options in the company, or other perks. Again, it all depends on your individual agreement with your company.

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Mainly due to the strong influence of Italy’s trade unions, there are also strict but varying rules on pay, conditions, and the terms and conditions set out in employment contracts in each sector.

If you're unsure what your Italian employment contract contains or are concerned that it may not comply with Italian employment law, speak to a trade union body representing your sector or an independent legal advisor.


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