Italy: Latest developments in working life Q4 2019
New rules to protect platform delivery workers and a study pointing to persistent difficulties in ensuring employment opportunities for people with disabilities are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Italy in the fourth quarter of 2019.
New law for platform delivery workers
A regulatory framework for platform delivery workers was defined through law no. 128 of 2 November 2019. The legislation introduces a number of provisions to regulate semi-independent jobs that are usually performed by workers who are formally self-employed, but often economically dependent and under the organisational directives of an employer.
The law addresses the issue of semi-autonomous workers and states that they shall be covered by the same rules as employees, as long as they prevalently (previously it was ‘exclusively’) perform their work on a personal and continuing basis, in ways which are organised by the employer. The law specifically envisages that this includes digital platform workers. For those who are genuine, independent semi-autonomous workers, the law strengthens protection in the areas of sickness allowance, maternity leave and parental leave by lowering the requirements for eligibility and increasing the sickness allowance.
The most innovative part of the legislation introduces a set of rules to protect workers of digital platforms and specifically delivery workers, such as those working in food delivery, such as Deliveroo, Just Eat, Uber Eats, as well as a broader range of products, such as Glovo. The law covers self-employed delivery workers, when they operate in urban areas, for third parties and through platforms, including digital ones. Under the law, employment contracts must be stipulated in writing and collective agreements must be signed by the most representative unions and employer associations at national level. If no collective agreement is reached, delivery workers cannot be paid by piece rate and shall be guaranteed a minimum hourly pay in line with the collective rates in similar sectors. In addition, pay shall include specific bonuses of at least 10% for working at night, on official holidays or in bad weather conditions. The platforms cannot exclude or limit the worker’s access as a sanction for not accepting deliveries. The law also introduces mandatory insurance coverage for work-related accidents and illness. Provisions on pay will come into force after one year, while those on insurance coverage will come into force after 90 days.
The trade union confederations and the transport sector federations welcomed the legislative intervention, as they see legislation and collective bargaining as the appropriate way to regulate these types of activities. However, they stressed that protection should be strengthened and the application of the collective agreement, which includes specific rules on delivery workers, should be ensured.  Some delivery workers criticised the legislation, because they believe the new rules limit their independence. As a response, they established an independent trade union to represent their interests. 
Access to employment of people with disabilities remains challenging
A study carried out by the Study Foundation of the National Board of Labour Consultants highlights persistent difficulties in ensuring employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  The study was presented at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies on 3 December – the International Day of People with Disabilities. In Italy, law no. 68/1999 establishes a framework to support the employment of people with disabilities, which includes a system of ‘targeted placement’ and the obligation for employers with at least 15 employees to hire workers with disabilities.
Analysis of data provided by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies points to some significant limitations of targeted placement. First, there is a structural imbalance between the number of people registered in the targeted placement lists (approximately 775,000) and the potential jobs available through the mandatory reserved positions (around 500,000). Second, the actual gap is much wider, since as many as 145,000 reserved positions are not filled, due to difficulties in finding candidates – for example, the geographical distance between the location of the employer and the residence of the person with disabilities (51.6% of people registered for targeted employment are in the south of Italy yet only 21.4% of this group are employed) – or effectively promoting employment opportunities. Moreover, the number of people registered for targeted placement is increasing because of difficulties in finding jobs in the open labour market. There are also substantial gender, geographical and age imbalances, as most people with disabilities who are employed are men (58.7%), a resident in the north of the country (56.3%) and older (only 17.5% of the employed are under 40 years of age). Young people with disabilities find it particularly difficult to enter employment.
The study points to the need to bolster activation policies, such as training and labour insertion services and programmes, to support the employment of people with disabilities, with a special focus on young people. This may help both increase job opportunities in the open labour market and contribute to the full application of the system of targeted employment.
The political situation remains uncertain, as the leader of the Five Stars Movement, Luigi Di Maio, decided to step down in late January 2020, and important regional elections are at the centre of the public debate. In February 2020, the procedure for the election in May 2020 of the new President of Confindustria will start. In this context, developments in social dialogue will mainly be in the area of collective bargaining renewals, with the important negotiations in the metalworking sector underway.
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