How to deal with a reduction of business during the COVID-19 pandemic? Can I impose a reduction of working time on my employees? Is there any help from the State to cope with short-time work?
In general terms, an employer cannot force any employee to accept a reduction in his working hours and the corresponding salary; it could be done just by an individual or collective agreement.
By the way, the Italian Social Security System offers different tools to cope with temporary crisis situation. In particular, in Italy has long been possible to activate a short-time working system called ‘Cassa Integrazione’ (CIG, CIGO, CIGS CIGD, FIS).
Through that system, the employer may reduce its employees’ work for a certain period of time. When they are not working, employees receive 80% of their salary, with a maximum set for 2020 of € 1,124.04 net per month, paid by social security agency (generally INPS).
According to the usual rules, access to the short-time working system could only be granted under the following conditions:
- the employer have to work in specific business sectors (oil & gas, buildings and constructions etc);
- the employer must have more than 5 employees;
- each concerned worker must have been employed for at least 90 days;
- the employer must not have hired fixed terms contract workers in recent times;
- the employer must specify his reasons to access the system within a close number (e.g. natural events / shortage of raw materials / crisis or corporate reorganization ‘certified’)
- the employer must sign an agreement with trade unions representatives;
- the employer must pay an admission fee to the social security agency (INPS);
- the employer has generally to pay the short-time allowance to his workers and can therefore compensate it with the payments due to the social security agency;
- the employer can access to the system for different periods of time depending on the reasons of the application and the business sector.
For the Covid-19 emergency, access to the short-time working system has been significantly expanded and the necessary requirements have been deeply simplified (DL n.18/2020).
- employers in all sectors can access;
- employers can access even if they have less than 5 employees;
- no seniority of workers’ service is required;
- the employer can access regardless of whether he has employees with fixed term contracts;
- a general reason, ‘Covid 19 emergency’, is accepted for all employers;
- there is no need for a union agreement, a simple consultation is enough;
- no admission fee is due;
- the allowance can be paid by the social security agency directly to the workers;
- the emergency intervention (following the DL 34/2020) can last for a maximum period of 18 weeks between March and October (but it can be added to ‘ordinary’ interventions ).
Foreign companies can apply for short-time work allowance as long as their employees in Italy are subject to Italian social security.
The Italian Government passed many other measures to assist companies facing the COVID-19 crisis such as tax delays and loans on favourable terms. Specific measures has been set for independent contractors, start-ups, agricultural sector and cultural sector companies.