Italy was one of the first nations in the world to enter lockdown in March 2020 and one of the first to implement emergency remote working measures.
Today large numbers of the workforce (including 40% of graduate workers) now work remotely or in a hybrid form.
Since the worst days of the pandemic in 2020, numerous updates to Italian employment law have tweaked and changed the management of remote working ( "smart working", as the Italians call it), bringing about greater employment rights and employer obligations.
This article contextualises these new and forthcoming legal changes and highlights what employers need to consider when hiring remote workers in Italy.
Context: Remote Working Law Before the Pandemic
The pandemic marked an abrupt shift in the Italian labour market as workers migrated from the company premises to their homes.
The emergency remote working rules that came into effect in 2020 built upon the pre-pandemic “agile” work laws set out in Chapter II of Legislative Decree 81/2017, which remains the basis for remote working law in Italy.
The 2017 agreement sets out the right of employers and employees to create a “pact” that allows the latter to perform services outside company premises.
Limited in scope, the decree originally obliged employers to accept requests for "agile" work submitted by women (within three years of maternity leave) or from workers with children with disabilities.
In 2017, the agile employee could perform their service without specific constraints of time and place, similarly to self-employment. But unlike autonomous workers, these employees would be subject to health and safety regulations and the same disciplinary sanctions as on-site employees (including "justified reasons" for terminating employment in case of a serious breach of contract).
Remote Work in Italy since 2020
Since then, the emergency regulatory framework adopted in February 2020 introduced a simplified regime. The law decreed that "emergency" smart working could be applied to any salaried employment relationship, even in the absence of appropriate individual agreements (as stipulated in the 2017 degree).
In December 2021, the National Protocol on Agile Work in the Private Sector formalised remote work as a "structural asset of work organisation", hastening a regulatory simplification of remote work in Italy.
Hiring Remote Workers in 2022 and 2023
As of 2022, the Ministry of Labour has simplified how to hire remote workers in Italy.
Now employers (or Employers of Record such as PeoItaly) hiring remote workers before 31 December 2022 can simply submit the start and termination date of agile work services to the Ministry of Labour.
From 1 January 2023, employers will return to the rules set out in the original 2017 “agile” work Legislative Degree described above. This means employers must provide individual “smart working” agreements with employees.
Non-fulfilment of this obligation entails an administrative sanction of between 100 and 500 euros for each employee, in addition to the risk of non-coverage of accidents by INAIL.
The agreements between employer and employee must set out the duration and location of work and reflect the fact that remote workers are now entitled to the rights previously only enjoyed by in-presence employees, from insurance protections and welfare incentives. These rights include:
1. Performance-related bonuses (Premi di Risultato)
The 7 December 2021 Protocol gave remote workers access to performance-related bonuses, including the Premio di Risultato.
To access the tax relief bonus, companies must complete a declaration of compliance containing the characteristics of the agreement, including the objectives identified and indicators adopted.
This means remote workers have the same entitlement to result-related dividends and corporate welfare benefits given to colleagues who carry out work exclusively on-site.
2. Health and Safety Protections
According to Article 22(1) of the Legislative Degree. 81/2017, employers are required to provide "written information [about the] specific risks related to the particular mode of work performance" and to "protect the physical integrity" of their employees—even those who do not perform their duties onsite.
Emergency remote working laws introduced in 2020 elevated anti-Covid-19 measures as the primary health and safety-related risk. Now employers must consider new norms for broader health and safety-related issues when employing remote workers, including the safe and proper functioning of technological tools assigned to remote workers.
Therefore employers are obliged to carry out a risk assessment with particular reference to the consequences of work performed through the use of computers, from improper posture to sight-related problems.
Employers must also consider non-physical health and safety issues related to remote work, such as hyperconnectedness and social isolation, to mitigate the psychological implications of always-on work culture.
In other words, the employer (or the registered and licensed health and safety consultant) must also prepare and update the risk assessment related to remote work performance, including any variations in the execution of the working relationship outside the company premises.
Read more about health and safety issues when hiring remote employees in Italy.
3. Remote Work Insurance
In 2017, the legislature recognised the right to protection against occupational accidents and diseases dependent on risks related to work performed outside company premises.
As such, employers must provide INAIL insurance coverage against occupational illnesses and accidents (even in low-risk home-working environments).
As the National Protocol on Agile Work lays out, the worker is free to choose where they carry out their remote work—provided that the site is safe, secure and confidential, especially when processing company data, information and systems.
For the employer, the employee’s freedom to choose where to work (whether at home or in another location) entails that any injury on the commute to work is covered by insurance.
Remote Work Agreements in Practice
In September 2022, National Institute for Public Policy (INAPP) published the report, Towards Smart Working? A multidisciplinary analysis of a natural experiment, which assessed remote work agreements of some of the largest companies in Italy.
The report found that most agreements stipulate that the employer must provide the worker with the technological equipment (laptops, smartphones, screens) necessary for the performance of agile work.
In such agreements, the employee is responsible for the safe and proper functioning of equipment and must notify their supervisor in case of malfunctioning work tools or connectivity problems.
The report found that some companies provide individual counselling services for psychological and organisational wellbeing.
Regarding compulsory insurance coverage, most agreements stipulate that employees must provide timely and detailed information to the company in the event of an accident during remote work.
As the INAPP researchers concluded, policymakers and employers should continue monitoring employee wellbeing and take note of the legal changes and obligations regarding the health and safety of their employees.
PeoItaly can help you keep track of these fast-changing laws and obligations.