Italy’s “DECRETO CURA ITALIA” (Decree Law no. 18 of 17 March 2020): The impact on LABOUR LAW – A brief overview

The Italian Government issued on the Gazzetta Ufficiale (Official Journal – General Series n.70 of 17-03-2020) the so-called “Decreto Cura Italia” concerning measures to strengthen the National Health Service and the economic support of families, workers and businesses related to the COVID-19 epidemiological emergency (Decree Law no. 18/2020).

While in no way pretending to be exhaustive, we wish to provide a brief overview of the impact of these measures on Italian labour law.

First of all, art. 46 of the above-mentioned Decree Law concerns the preclusion for employers – for a period of 60 days – to undertake procedures of collective dismissal pursuant to Law no. 223/1990, as well as the preclusion to order individual dismissals for objective justified reasons pursuant to art. 3 Law. no. 604/1966. So, from the 17th March 2020 to the 16 May 2020 it will not be possible for employers to take benefit from the aforesaid actions.
Moreover, for the same period any procedure of collective dismissal that has been initiated after the 23rd February 2020 is suspended.
This particular point has already raised concerns. It is not clear if it may or may not be included in the of application of the rule under consideration of the dismissal of executives. Upcoming litigation only is going to clear this point.
Furthermore, the effects of art. 46 of Decree Law no.18/2020 are unclear on the so-called “dismissals for objective reasons” made by employers despite the ban: the dismissal act can be intended as suspended or must be considered radically null and void?

Decreto Cura Italia provides also a measure in order to enable families with working parents to care their children under the age of 12 – during the period of closure of schools – through the introduction of a specific leave for a period up to 15 days, paid with a compensation equal to 50% of the salary. It is structured as an alternative among parents only if there is none of both parents available to take care of the child. In case of children between the age of 12 and 16 years, it is possible to gain a specific leave without pay. No age limit in case of children with special needs and parents can also benefit of a leave with compensation.
As a valid option to the specific leave, the Decreto Cura Italia offers to eligible parents a voucher linked to the payment of babysitting services. The amount of those vouchers can be up to €600,00 and, for employees in sectors strongly committed to the fight against diffusion of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. up to €1000,00 (health care, security, defense and public aid).

With regard to social safety nets, the wage subsidies provided by the above-mentioned Decree Law are remarkable.
All employers that suspend or reduce work activity due to events related to the epidemiological emergency by Coronavirus, may apply for the ordinary salary integration or for the ordinary cheque for their employees hired by the 23th February 2020. The measure can last up to nine weeks and has to be used by August 2020.
In these circumstances of urgency, in order to speed up the requests, the application can be submitted even in the absence of the trade union consultation procedure, without compliance with the ordinary deadlines for the submission nor payment of additional contribution. In any case, the consultation procedure has to be carried out within three days following the request and is possible to file an online request.
These wage subsidies are not taken into account in calculating the maximum period of treatment set forth in Legislative Decree no. 148/2015 concerning safety nets.
For employers who already benefit for their employees from an extraordinary salary integration measure, it will be automatic suspended and temporary replaced – for nine weeks – by the above-mentioned social safety nets provided by the Decreto Cura Italia, even if the measure relates to the same employees already affected by an extraordinary salary integration. Similar provisions apply to employers who already benefit from the so-called “solidarity cheques” by INPS, the Italian National Social welfare institution.
For private sector employers whom cannot apply for the aforementioned safety nets, Italian Regions and Autonomous Provinces – after a consultation with representative trade unions at a national level – will be able to recognize redundancy fund procedure for the duration of the suspension or reduction of the work activity, in any case, for a period not exceeding nine weeks, with full recognition to employees of figurative contributions and related charges. The agreement with the Region will in any case not be necessary for employers who employ up to five people.
For freelance workers with an active VAT number on the date of 23 February 2020 and members of the so-called Gestione Separata by INPS who are not pension holders can benefit form a one-off indemnity for the month of March 2020, equal to Euro 600.00, which does not be counted as taxable income. The Italian Government has still declared that the indemnity will be granted also for April 2020.

Lastly, art. 39 of Decree Law no. 18/2020 concerns the right for workers with severe kinds of disabilities pursuant to art. 3, paragraph 3 of Law no.104/1992 and for employees who have a disabled person in their household to benefit form flexibility form of working and smart-working in accordance with the provisions of Legislative Decree no. 81/2017, with the only limit of the compatibility of the tasks carried out by such persons.
In addition, art. 39 of the above-mentioned Decree Law also establishes a right of priority to obtain work flexibility for employees in the private sector who suffer from serious and proven diseases or with reduced capacity to work.

The measures to strengthen the economic support of families, workers and businesses related to the COVID-19 epidemiological emergency are significant. However, the formulation of many articles leaves space for different interpretation and does not clarify the exact procedure to apply for certain measures with uncertainty for operators.
Therefore, it is desirable an action in the context of the future conversion of the Decree Law in Law in order to to fill in the gaps, with the aim to give effective and concrete access to all measures to the beneficiaries and to contain the amount of labour law litigation that will probably arise as soon as the emergency is over.