The Italian government enacted a new and powerful economic plan – the “Cura Italia” – on March 17, 2020, sending Italian citizens a strong message of solidarity and support to Italian citizens. The Decree allocates a liquidity injection of some €25 billion in aid for workers, businesses, and families through a liquidity injection to support the economy.
How the Cura Italia Addresses Employment and the Workplace
The most significant portion of the aid will be allocated to reinforce social safety nets, including people who, under ordinary conditions, could not access those benefits. Among the measures are:
- Extending the Ordinary Earnings Supplement Fund and implementing a simplified procedure for all companies that intend to adopt the ordinary layoff. This includes a mechanism for derogating from the maximum limit (currently 24 months);
- Extending and upgrading the Redundancy Fund in Exception for employers with fewer than six employees (even just one employee). This includes sectors covered by the Ordinary Earnings Supplement Fund and not protected by Solidarity Funds, such as services and logistics;
- An appropriation of €500 million for the Wage Integration Fund for micro-enterprises employing between one and five employees who cannot count on social safety nets.
Special Rules Regarding Ordinary Salary Integration and Ordinary Allowance
In 2020, employers who suspend or reduce their work due to events attributable to the COVID-19 emergency can apply for ordinary salary integration or access to the ordinary allowance for a maximum duration of nine weeks (ending August 2020). Applications can be submitted by the end of the fourth month following the one in which the period of suspension or reduction of work began.
Those who apply for the ordinary allowance are exempted from statutory obligations relating to trade union information and consultation, which are generally essential to assess applications. However, the information, consultation, and joint examination must be carried out electronically within three days of the request.
Companies benefiting from the Extraordinary Redundancy Fund (for example, for a solidarity contract or reorganization) can also apply to the Ordinary Earnings Supplement Fund for a period not exceeding nine weeks.
Before the Ordinary Earnings Supplement Fund is authorized, however, it is necessary to stop the current Extraordinary Redundancy Fund. The Ministry of Labor and Social Policies must adopt a decree at the request of the company concerned.
Employers enrolled in the Wage Integration Fund under Decree Law No. 6 of February 23, 2020, and with a solidarity allowance in place, can still access the Ordinary Earnings Supplement Fund for a period not exceeding nine weeks.
The grant of ordinary wage supplement treatment suspends and replaces the solidarity allowance already in progress, and can also concern the same workers who are beneficiaries of the solidarity allowance to cover working hours fully.
New Provisions for the Redundancy Fund in Exception
The Redundancy Fund in Exception will apply to private-sector employers, including agricultural, fisheries, and third-sector employers, including civilly recognized religious entities, that cannot rely on the safeguards above. This includes both small companies with up to five employees and large companies that have participated in the Extraordinary Redundancy Fund.
A prior agreement with national trade union organizations is needed, but may be obtained electronically.
It is up to the Regions and Autonomous Provinces to sign this agreement. It will not be an agreement with individual companies but instead a regional framework agreement.
This treatment will be granted by decree of the Regions and Autonomous Provinces for a period not exceeding nine weeks, and limited to employees already in the labor force as of February 23, 2020.
The decree and a list of beneficiaries must be sent electronically to the National Social Welfare Institution (INPS) within 48 hours of its adoption to allow for the required verification of compliance with the spending limits.
Indemnity for Self-Employed Workers and Freelancers
Self-employed workers and freelancers will receive a €600 allocation to assist them during the period of inactivity.
The allowance, which does not constitute income pursuant to the President of the Republic’s Decree No. 917 of December 22, 1986. That law will be renewed or replaced, if necessary, in April.
A monthly allocation similar to the one for self-employed workers (€700 for a maximum of three months) is also expected for honorary magistrates.
Extension of Time Limits Relating to Unemployment Claims
For workers who are involuntarily dismissed between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, the deadline for submitting an unemployment claim is extended to 128 days from 68 days.
Suspension of Appeal Procedures for Layoffs
A crucial provision of the Cura Italia Decree concerns layoffs. Companies are prohibited from laying off workers for the next two months (as of February 23, 2020) without “justified objective reasons.”
Where the layoff occurs after 23 February, it must remain frozen for 60 days, even if the economic rationale is linked to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 emergency.
Help for People With Disabilities and Family Members With Disabilities
Until April 30, 2020, employees with disabilities and those who assist family members with disabilities may work remotely (in agile mode) to the extent it is compatible with the employer’s business. Otherwise, the authorization to stay at home will be extended from three to 15 days per month, both for March and for April 2020.
The Decree also addresses parental leave to families with children affected by school closures and suspension of educational services, as ordered in the Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers of March 4, 2020.
Parents employed in the private sector, as well as parents working in the public sector with children up to 12 years of age, can take a leave of up to 15 days, continuous or split, with an indemnity equal to 50% of salary to be paid by the Italian Social Security Institution.
The age limit referred to above does not apply to children with disabilities who are enrolled in schools of all levels and grades or who are hosted in daycare centers.
For an employed parent to take leave, the other parent must not be unemployed or receive any other income support measure.
For parents employed in the private sector, and whose children are between 12 and 16 years of age, the right to abstain from work is provided on the condition that there is no other parent within the family who benefits from income support or with the right to abstain from work. These parents will not be entitled to any allowance or money from the government. However, dismissal by an employer is prohibited.
Bonus for Babysitting Services
As an alternative to leave, families may, during the emergency period, request the payment of a bonus to purchase babysitting services, up to a maximum limit of €600.
The National Social Welfare Institution established the procedures for obtaining these funds, monitors requests, and communicates results to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. If a family has exceeded the expenditure limit, the INPS may reject additional requests.
The bonus amount increases to €1,000 for doctors, nurses, social health personnel, researchers, and State Police personnel responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Urgent Measures to Protect the Active Surveillance of Private Sector Workers
For private-sector workers subjected to a quarantine period after entering Italy from an epidemiological risk area (as identified by the World Health Organization) and for those subjected to quarantine with active surveillance after coming into close contact with infected persons, the entire quarantine period is treated as an illness under the Decree.
The treating physician is required to issue a certificate of the disease with the details that gave rise to quarantine, along with a prescription for the person to remain at home.
Extraordinary Measures Regarding Smart Working
In general, the Decree provides that until the COVID-19 emergency ends, “smart working” (working remotely) at home or at a distance is necessary to limit the presence of employees in the workplace.
Additional Protective Measures for Workers and the Community
To contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus until the emergency ends, the Decree requires all Italian workers who cannot maintain a social distance of one meter to use commercially available surgical devices such as masks, including filtration masks without CE mark.
Tax Credit For Sanitation Costs In The Workplace
The Decree encourages sanitation of the workplace as a measure to contain the COVID-19 virus.
Individuals carrying out business, art, or professional activities are eligible for a 2020 tax credit equal to 50 percent of the costs of sanitizing their work environments and work tools, up to a maximum of €20,000 per individual. The maximum overall spending limit will be €50 million for 2020.
All the measures of the Decree are subject to monthly monitoring by the competent administrations in agreement with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which can make changes to optimize the allocation of available resources.
Italian Prime Minister Conte said that he is aware of the urgent need to rebuild the country’s economic and social fabric, severely damaged by this emergency. This decree “will not be enough” to achieve the goal.
The Italian Government is already working on the second set of measures for April that will have “a double impact compared to the old financial one” in the hope that the rest of Europe will soon follow the example Italy has set for the rest of the world.
A.L. Assistenza Legale