COVID-19 – Second round of government measures: furlough extension, dismissal ban, and other employment measures
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21 Maggio 2020

By means of Law Decree No. 34 of May 19, 2020, known as the “Decreto Rilancio” (the “19 May Decree”), and the new provisions on health and safety protocol (the “H&S Protocol”) executed on April 24, 2020, new measures have been put in place that deal with the reopening phase (commonly known as Phase 2) and the effects of the lockdown on business over the next few months.

Furloughs

The 19 May Decree introduced a second round of measures that amend those previously provided by Law Decree No. 18 of March 17, 2020, known as the “Decreto Cura Italia” (the “17 March Decree”).

To handle temporary business closures and a drop-off in business, the special furlough program has been extended by an additional 5 weeks through August 31, 2020 (i.e., 14 weeks in total from the beginning of the outbreak on February 23, 2020). An additional 4 weeks of furlough may be authorized through October 31, 2020, but only if the above conditions persist.

Italian law provides 4 furlough programs (the Cassa Integrazione Salariale Ordinaria; Cassa Integrazione Salariale Straordinaria; Cassa Integrazione Salariale in Deroga, and Fondo di Integrazione Salariale), which work in similar ways, and there is a trade union consultation step built into their application requirements.

Employees hired before March 18, 2020, are entitled to receive the provided indemnity, which is equal to 80% of one month’s salary with a maximum of about EUR 1,000 to EUR 1,200, depending on the employee’s remuneration level. Typically a company makes this kind of payment in advance and then is reimbursed by the government, but in this emergency scenario companies may make direct requests to the government. Employees on furlough cannot work. If a furloughed employee works for a certain number of hours or days, the company must pay that employee’s salary for the hours worked and request furlough for the remaining period that the employee did not work.

Redundancy

Dismissal procedures (both individual and collective) for redundancy (for economic and/or organizational reasons) are banned for an additional 3 months (i.e., 5 months in total) until the middle of August.

The employer may revoke any dismissal communicated after February 23, 2020, requesting the furlough measure already applied to the other employees for the employee in question.

With reference to the above-mentioned dismissal ban, some exceptions are provided. In fact, it is possible to proceed with redundancy in certain cases, including: (i) employees classified as “dirigenti” (managers/executives); (ii) employees who did not pass a trial period (during such a period); (iii) employees who have reached retirement age; (iv) employees who have reached the end of an internship period; (v) employees who have taken the maximum sick leave; (vi) employees who are not able to carry out work activity (unsuitable employees); (vii) change of supply service agreement if — according to the applicable national collective labor agreement — the employees need to be hired by the new contractor.

Leave

The Italian Government has introduced additional supporting measures to deal with the current emergency that are applicable to employees under certain conditions.

The special optional family leave of 15 days provided for employees with children under 12 years of age and regardless of age if disabled has been extended for an additional 15 days (i.e., 30 days in total), with an indemnity equal to 50% of gross salary. As an alternative, employees may receive EUR1200 childcare vouchers.

Employees with children under 16 years of age have the right to request unpaid leave for the entire period when childcare services and school activities are suspended.

Paid leave to take care of disabled persons is extended by an additional 12 days for May and June 2020.

Smart Working

Smart-working mode (i.e., working from home) is still encouraged. Employees are allowed to work remotely even in the absence of prior agreement between the parties (which is normally a prerequisite) until July 31, 2020. In particular, employees with children under 14 years of age will have the right to work from home during that period.

Fixed Term Contracts

Fixed term contracts, in force on February 23, 2020, for both employees and temporary staff workers can be extended or renewed until August 30, 2020 without specific reasons, a condition usually provided by Italian law for relationships lasting longer than 12 months.

Measures to Contain the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

On April 24, 2020 the H&S Protocol issued on March 14, 2020 was updated with new provisions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in workplace.

Failure to comply with the H&S Protocol will result in the suspension of business activity until H&S conditions are met.

The main new provisions are:

  • Adequate cleaning and periodic sanitizing of company premises, workstations, and all common areas.
  • Additional hygiene measures to be adopted by all companies operating in the most affected Italian areas as well as by all companies that have registered confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.
  • Provision of appropriate information to all employees, to be tailored to their duties and their working environments, concerning the guidelines for correct use of personal protective equipment.
  • A planned work schedule with staggered shifts, thus allowing social distancing and avoiding having groups gather when entering and exiting.
  • Promotion of the use of private vehicles or shuttles to commute between the workplace and home.
  • The company doctor is now entitled to suggest adopting any diagnostic measures deemed appropriate for the containment of the spread of the virus in the workplace and to identify vulnerable employees. For the emergency period, under a guideline issued by the labor authorities, all companies should have or appoint a company doctor, or at least call upon doctors from the relevant public authorities.
  • If an employee was affected by COVID-19 and now tests negative, as indicated by the specific medical certification, the company doctor shall submit the employee to a preventive medical examination in order to assess his/her suitability for his/her work duties, as well as any specific risk, regardless of the length of the employee’s sick leave.

CONCLUSION

Clearly, the above new measures are simply an extension of those previously issued to deal with the COVID-19 emergency, but employers can soon expect to see significant rules designed to manage the “new normal” in the workplace, wherever that may be (office or home).

Articolo inserito in: COVID-19, Diritto del Lavoro
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