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Coronavirus - Employment law update - Italy

  • Italy
  • Coronavirus - Country overview
  • Employment law

12-03-2020

Further to the ofutbreak of COVID-19 in Italy, we have prepared a check-list to enable employers to manage employment-related matters in the best way possible. In particular, we address some of the more common questions raised by Italian employers.

Coronavirus: employment law in Italy – general principles

  • in order to address the spread of COVID-19, according to the provisions set forth by the Health Minister dated 3 February 2020, and the provisions of Health and Safety laws, employers have to assess the specific risks by involving the relevant company functions (i.e. Person Responsible for the preventive and protective service “RSPP”, the company doctor and the workers’ representative for safety at the work place “RSL”). Furthermore, employers may consider introducing a dedicated company function which monitors any updates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Minister of Health as well as other Italian authorities involved, such as the Government
  • it is strongly advisable that employers regularly review, check and update the company’s risk assessment document (“DVR”) in light of updated information of risks connected to COVID-19
  • pursuant to the Decree issued by the President of Council of Ministers on 9 March 2020, exit from, entrance and movement within the whole national territory is forbidden, unless for proven work-related, health or emergency reasons. In light of this, employees shall perform their work remotely (i.e. smart working). If remote working is not possible, it is highly recommended that employers encourage their employees to take paid holiday or other paid leave
  • currently, smart-working is extended to the whole national territory, to all sectors. It can be activated in a simplified way, made available on the INAIL (Italian Social Security Institution) website
  • in light of the current provisions, the entrance to the company site/offices by third parties (i.e. contractor, consultants, visitors) must be avoided, unless it is for a work-related reason. If attending the employer’s site is necessary and permitted, a safe distance of one metre must be kept between individuals
  • if the employer suspects that an employee is affected by COVID-19, the person responsible for Health and Safety at work as well as the competent doctor should be promptly informed. The doctor will then inform the local health authority (“ATS”), who will adopt the necessary health and precautionary measures
  • pursuant to the statement of the Italian Privacy Authority, employers are not entitled to directly collect information from employees about symptoms/signs of COVID-19 or information about their travel. Such request could be considered as unlawful data processing. For the same reason, employers are not able to check the body temperature of their employees. Such requests can only be made by the company doctor (if any) as well as by a doctor of the competent health authority
  • employees are exempt from attending the workplace if they have been in close contact with infected people as well as those who have returned from high risk areas
  • employees should be provided with material on the most common symptoms (fever, dry cough, sore throat and breathing difficulties) and on precautionary measures aimed at limiting the risk of spreading of COVID-19, such as washing hands frequently, paying attention to surface hygiene, avoiding contact with people with flu symptoms and controlling home temperature
  • employers should direct employees to postpone in-person meetings and travel that are not urgent and adopt alternative solutions, such as video or conference calls
  • if an employee is absent because they have been infected by COVID-19, that employee is entitled to treatment provided for by Labour laws and National Collective Bargaining Agreement (“NCBA”)
  • if a doctor certifies the need for mandatory self-isolation with active surveillance, this will be sufficient to justify the absence from work for employment purposes and to the Italian National Social Security Institution (“INPS”). The employee will be considered as sick and therefore entitled to time off to receive the relevant treatment

Coronavirus: company protection measures in Italy

1. How should the company handle a suspected case?

Where it is suspected that an employee is affected by COVID-19, the person responsible for health and safety at work (RSPP) and the competent doctor should be promptly informed. The doctor will then inform the local health authority who will adopt the necessary measures.

2. Can the company ask employees for information about symptoms/signs of COVID-19 as well as about their recent movements? Can directly mandate medical checks?

According to the recent guidelines set out by the Italian Data Protection Authority, investigations and collection of information relating to typical symptoms of COVID-19 and information on recent movements of each individual is under the responsibility of the healthcare competent authority and system activated by the Italian Civil protection, which are the bodies in charge of ensuring compliance with recently adopted public health rules.

This means that employers are no longer entitled to collect such information or check body temperature of employees.

Nevertheless, employers could decide to display posters at the entrance of company sites which forbids access to the site if employees have recently returned from affected areas of China or have recently had contact with an infected person or if they are showing the symptoms/signs of the virus.

However, the recent decree issued by the Italian Government provides that exit from and entrance in the whole national territory is forbidden unless for necessary work or health reasons. Furthermore, until 25 March 2020, the Italian Government has suspended the activity of all departments which are not essential to productive activity, to limit the spread of the virus. If individuals need to enter their place of work, they will have to adopt individual protective equipment or alternatively maintain a safe distance of one metre from any other individual.

3. How should companies handle the relationship with third parties?

In the light of a company’s general duty to protect its employees’ health, where it is not possible to have guarantees in terms of third parties’ health and where they may have travelled, the company can prevent them from entering the site. The final evaluation should take into consideration the relevant contractual consequences.

According to current legislation and if possible, the company can propose to contractors that they perform relevant activities remotely.

The guidelines of the Data Privacy Authority should be followed. This means that it is advisable to display posters at the entrance of the employer’s site, not allowing entrance to the site where a person is displaying the typical symptoms/signs of COVID-19 or has been in contact with an infected person.

Coronavirus: business travel in Italy

Pursuant to the latest decree issued by the President of Council of Ministers on 9 March 2020, exit from, entrance to and movements within the whole national territory is forbidden, unless for proven work-related or health reasons or in case of necessity. This applies until 3 April 2020.

In light of this, employees have to perform their working activity remotely or alternatively take paid leave/vacation in order to limit movement within the national territory.

Travel that is not urgent will therefore need to be postponed or be conducted by alternative solutions such as organising video or conference calls and webinars. Furthermore, the majority of airline companies have cancelled flights to and from Italy.

Coronavirus: smart working in Italy

Under the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers dated 9 March 2020 (“Decree”), the smart working regime has been slightly modified in order to ease access for all Italian employers and employees.

Working activity must be performed remotely if possible, in order to reduce individual movement within the national territory. According to the Decree, smart working shall be applicable in the absence of an – otherwise mandatory – relevant written agreement. That agreement should be replaced by a a written communication (which can be in email/electronic format), setting out the smart working arrangement.

Employers are required protect the health and safety of their employees even when they are working remotely. In this respect, employers are required to deliver information on risks regarding health and safety at work to employees working remotely. In sending the communication setting out the smart working arrangement, it is therefore advised that a communication is also included regarding health and safety information on smart working.

Please note that this easing measure is temporary and valid until 31 July 2020, save for any future and possible amendments.

Coronavirus: absence from work in Italy

Broadly speaking, if the employee falls ill because of COVID-19, the usual sick pay will apply.

If employees are quarantined are they entitled to pay?

Where an employee is subject to mandatory quarantine/self-isolation, a local doctor will certify such conditions which justify the absence from work and a certificate will be addressed to INPS and to the employer. The statement declares that the individual has been put in quarantine for reasons of public health. The employee will be considered as sick based on this statement and entitled to the relevant treatment under the law and the applied National Collective Bargaining Agreement (NCBA).

If the employer decides on a precautionary basis to exempt the employees from attending the workplace, are they entitled to pay?

Yes, because this is the employer’s decision.

If employees voluntarily decide to put themselves in quarantine, are they entitled to pay?

If the employee is able to work from home, they will receive regular salary payments in the usual way. Otherwise, if the employee cannot work from home, the absence is not justified by a statement from the authority or a certificate from the doctor. Therefore, the employee will not be entitled to continued pay, but can use accrued holidays. Alternatively, they can be put on unpaid leave.

Coronavirus: additional employment law questions in Italy

Is the employer liable if an infected employee infects others at work?

This will depend on the circumstances of infection. An employer should not usually be deemed liable if they have acted in accordance with the health authority’s instructions, issued information to employees, adopted any healthcare measures within the work place and reviewed and where appropriate updated their DVR.

How to treat a “break at work”? Does the employer need to continue to pay salary? If so, for how long?

If the closure of a place of work is a company’s decision, the employer has to pay the salary for the entire period of closure.

If however the closure is mandatory due to home stay measures stated by a certificate of the competent health authority, the employee will be considered as sick and entitled to the relevant treatment set forth by NCBA. Furthermore, if the company has in place insurance covering the sick pay of sick employees, then reimbursement of salaries may be possible.

Coronavirus: latest news on employment law in Italy

On 11 March 2020, the Italian President of Council of Ministers Giuseppe Conte signed a new decree (“DPCM”) which contains new emergency measures to address the spread of COVID-19, applicable until 25 March 2020.

In summary, the principal measures set out in the DPCM are:

  • all retailer activities, except those which guarantee the distribution of food, hygiene products, medicines and primary needs goods are suspended
  • bars, restaurants and pubs are closed, except home-delivery services
  • hair salons for men and women as well as beauty shops are closed
  • banking, financial and insurance services and activities related to the agrarian sector are permitted to continue
  • public transport, even if reduced and limited to the essential services, is permitted to continue

With reference to productive and professional activities:

  • work should be performed remotely (i.e. smart -working) if the tasks can be performed from home
  • employers should promote paid leave, including vacation
  • companies should suspend the activities of all departments which are not essential to the business. In order to avoid the spread of the virus, individual protection equipment must be adopted if it is not possible to maintain a one metre distance from one person to the other
  • employers should sanitise their premises
  • movements inside company premises must be limited and must respect a distance of one metre from one person to another
  • all the above-mentioned measures should be promoted, including by agreement between the employer and unions

As previously mentioned, under a recent decree that is set to last from 9 March 2020 until 3 April 2020, the Italian borders have been closed, unless essential work, health or emergencies occur.

Where there has been a total suspension of working activity, employees working in specific sectors (mainly industrial companies) will be entitled to benefit from CIGO or other wage fund guarantees.

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