Nestlé Group brings in groundbreaking paternity leave agreement

The huge Nestlé Group has introduced two weeks of paternity leave on full pay for its Italian workers. The innovative agreement, which also allows for generous birth and parental care leave for fathers as well as mothers, is in line with European recommendations for the improvement of work-life balance. Its provisions, however, go well beyond the statutory paternity leave and pay proposals currently under discussion by the government as part of its labour market reforms.


Paternity leave was established in a company-level agreement (in Italian) at San Pellegrino, an Italian brand of mineral water and soft drinks owned by Nestlé. The agreement, signed on 13 March 2012, introduces important innovations intended to improve the work-life balance of employees. Nestlé says that these measures will be extended to cover all 5,600 workers across it companies in Italy.

Family-related leave for men

In Italian law, paternity leave is allowed only as an alternative to obligatory maternity leave. A new father can take leave with 80% of normal pay only when the mother cannot take care of their child.

Fathers are otherwise entitled to six months of parental leave until the child is eight. This leave can be continuous or broken up, but the father only receives 30% of his salary. Both parents can take parental leave together as long as the joint period does not exceed 10 months, as provided for in Law by decree n.151/2001 (in Italian, 278Kb PDF).

The reform of the labour market proposed by the current Monti government and currently under discussion includes the provision of obligatory paternity leave, to bring Italian legislation in line with other European countries. The proposal also complies with Directive 2010/18/EU (742.71Kb PDF) which implements the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME), the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises (CEEP) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). The government proposes paternity leave of three consecutive days to be taken within five months of a child’s birth, and this will no longer be an alternative to maternity leave.

The view from Nestlé

Nestlé and the unions, convinced that a balance of family roles can help female employment, have agreed a series of measures including:

  • ‘Company paternity leave’ which will be set at a maximum of two weeks on full pay, and which will incorporate any statutory minimum of paternity leave and pay established by legislation at a future date. This falls in line with recent amendments in Directive 92/85/ECC that suggests paid paternity leave should last for at least two weeks.
  • an increase from one to four days of paid leave for fathers on the birth of their child.
  • an increase in parental care leave from eight to 10 days for workers whose child is ill, and which can be taken while children are between the ages of three and eight.

Flexible working hours have also been agreed to encourage an increase in the number of women in work, and to improve their working conditions so that their work-life balance is improved and it is easier for them to remain in employment. The company and unions have also emphasised the importance of developing telework further, supported by specific vocational training for teleworkers, their supervisors and colleagues.

Nestlé has also agreed to give staff the right, up to a maximum of 5% of the workers in each production unit, to request a temporary move from full-time to part time work when their personal circumstances demand it. Training courses are planned to help women return to work following maternity leave, or for others following a long absence from the workplace.

The reactions of the social actors

Gianluigi Toia, Director of Industrial Relations of the Nestlé Group in Italy, has said that the company is particularly proud of the projects it has developed to improve work-life balance, and that the ‘Company paternity leave’ agreement was a particularly good example of this approach. He added that he was pleased that this agreement had been drawn up through constructive dialogue with the unions.

The three trade unions involved in the agreement, Flai-Cgil, Fai-Cisl and Uila-Uil, have said that the innovative agreements introduced by the company will help reconcile work-life balance, and will promote equal opportunities and better sharing of family chores.

Sofia Sanz, Cesos

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