The Italian Constitution sets out a number of principles relevant to employment law, such as non-discrimination and equality, fair pay, equal pay for women and men, and rights to join trade unions and participate in strikes. The Civil Code (Codice civile), which brings together the main civil law rights and norms, contains a “book” on employment. This deals with the nature of the employment relationship and the duties of the parties, along with matters such as termination of contract.

Numerous individual laws and legislative decrees govern specific aspects of employment relationship. The most important include:

  • Law no. 300 of 20 May 1970, known as the Workers’ Statute (Statuto dei Lavoratori), which deals with basic workers’ rights, including in respect of trade unions

  • Law no. 604 of 15 July 1966 on termination of employment

  • Legislative decree no. 81 of 15 June 2015 on various types of employment contract

  • Legislative decree no. 66 of 8 April 2003 on working time and rest

  • Legislative decree no. 151 of 26 March 2001 on maternity and parental leave

  • Legislative decree no. 198 of 11 April 2006, no. 215 of 9 July 2003 and no. 216 of 9 July 2003 on equality and non-discrimination

  • Legislative decree no. 81 of 9 April 2008 on health and safety.

Case law, and especially that of the Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione), plays a role in interpreting employment legislation.

Pay and conditions for a large majority of Italian employees are set by collective agreements, notably at industry level, and the minimum wage rates set by industry-level agreements apply to all employees in the sector concerned. In addition, national cross-industry agreements between trade union confederations and central employers’ bodies regulate matters such as workplace employee representation and bargaining structures across the private sector. Given the prevalent role of collective agreements, individual employment contracts often play only a relatively limited part in determining pay and conditions.

The Civil Code divides employees into four categories — senior managers (dirigenti), middle managers (quadri), white-collar employees (impiegati) and blue-collar employees (operai) — while industry-level collective agreements generally contain job-classification systems, whereby there are various levels of job within the four legal categories. Employees categorised as senior managers are not covered by employment legislation in certain areas, including working time and aspects of unfair dismissal, and are covered by separate rules in others, including fixed-term contracts.

This topic deals only with the private sector.

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