Hiring employees in Italy: tips and suggestion for companies
When you are looking to hire employees for your company there are different regulations regarding the decision to hire a citizen of the European Union or one outside of the EU. Likewise, each kind of employee may be subject to different rules. Employment laws and legal provisions within both Italy and the EU are highly developed and strictly governed, especially regarding foreign workers.
Trade Unions and Employment Laws
Basic rules regarding rights and obligations of employment in Italy can be found in the Constitution, the Civil Code , which includes a special section on employment matters, and the Workers’ Statute (Law no. 300/1970).
For more informations, be sure to check also our article about contract work in Italy.
Terms and conditions of employment are fixed by National Collective Agreements (NCA, sometimes also referred to as Collective Bargaining Agreements or CBAs). They are periodically signed between the trade unions and the employers’ associations of those same industries. These collective bargaining contracts normally regulate the working conditions and establish the minimum wage and salary scales for each specific sector.
Unions, worker councils, and NCAs represent the majority of Italy’s workforce, depending on the type of job of course. Employers must follow their internal rules in addition to any Italian employment regulations regarding compliance, minimum wage, compensation, and any time off. If, by chance, your company does not belong to an NCA, then you are not subject to any specific NCA’s rules.
Drafting an employment contract is a legal requirement whenever you hire employees in Italy and contracts must be drafted in Italian. These employment agreements should spell out everything from compensation and working hours to benefits to termination terms. If you mention (and you should if there is one) an NCA in the employment contract, you are bound by all of its rules. Salary or bonus amounts in euros should also be stated clearly.
Hiring EU vs. Non-EU Citizens: differences according to law
There are no specific rules related to the employment of European Union citizens because they can move and work in every EU Country, free of restrictions (aside from declaring their residence). On the other hand, limitations are set down by Italian law with respect to non-EU citizens. Visas and different work permits are a necessity. For some categories, such as seasonal workers, there will also need to be a provision for housing.
A non-EU citizen can only start after a specific immigration procedure is completed, which includes complying with the limitation of the annual quotas. These quotas are determined yearly by the government. After they are established, a non-EU citizen must request a work visa, assuming that they have been offered employment in Italy.
Non-EU citizens must first obtain the necessary documents from their new Italian employer that indicate the employee is entering the country for work reasons. Generally, the foreign worker will have to process their application at the Italian Consulate in their home country, that is, before coming to Italy. After reviewing those documents, the Italian Police Headquarters (Questura) may issue a work visa to non-EU employees. The employer must send all the administrative paperwork to the Immigration office before the employee enters the country to work. Entering before the process is completed can result in it being nullified.
Contracts: tips for signing & negotations
Employment contracts are governed by the general rules set out in the Civil Code and the relevant NCA. The employment relationship is defined in the employment contract. The two main types of contract are fixed-term and part-time, but there are also contracts for apprenticeships, on-call jobs, those acquired through an agency, and seasonal jobs (usually for agricultural workers).
Part-time employment contracts must be written and specify the working hours (e.g., by day, week, month, and year). Pay and other entitlements of part-time employees are normally pro-rated to those applicable to full-timers in the same job i.e., part-time workers get all of the same benefits as full-time workers. Ancillary clauses can be added to part-time contracts, allowing employers greater flexibility:
● Elastic clauses (clausole elastiche) permit an employer to increase working time as needed;
● Flexible clauses (clausole flessibili) permit an employer to vary working hours during the day.
Under legislative decree No. 368/2001, a company can hire employees with a fixed-term contract for arrangements limited by time. Fixed-term contracts can last up to 36 months, including any extension. There are quantitative limits, usually set by the labour authorities (in the NCA), however the law states that the overall number of fixed-term contracts may not exceed 20% of the permanent workforce. Fixed-term contracts also cannot be used to replace workers on strike or to replace employees temporarily laid-off or involved in collective dismissals in the past few months.
Given the very large number of NCAs and their extensive use by the employers, employment agreements in Italy normally consist of simple hiring letters that refer to the items required by the law: identity of the parties, place of work, employment start date, trial period (if any), duration of the employment (in case of a fixed-term contract), employees’ duties, and the provisions contained in the applicable NCAs.
Individual employment contracts also specify the employee’s category as established by the Civil Code under article 2095. There are four categories of employees: executives (dirigenti), middle managers (quadri), white collar employees (impiegati), blue collar employees (operai).
Jobs are subject to a trial period or probationary period in which the contract can be terminated by either party without notice or obligation. Alternatively, an employee may be compensated in the event of a termination if not notice is given. The probation period and notice period are generally set in the relevant NCA for that employee’s category, as listed above.
Regarding health and safety, an employer's main obligations are to:
Once all of these things are carefully included in the contract you can safely hire employees from both within and outside of the EU.
Do you want to learn more the difference between your gross and net salary? Check out our video guide below.
Want to know more? Check also our article about working time in Italy, immigration and Italian citizenship, starting a small business in Italy, and how to calculate Italian salaries.
After moving back to Italy from the United States in 2013, I realized how much an accounting and tax firm was needed to help expats living in Italy to comply with the local tax regulations.