Requests for flexible working are a growing phenomenon in the Italian employment market, where there is no general right to work flexibility or a right to request it, except for certain categories of workers.
The typical contract under which flexibility is granted is the part-time contract which allows the employee to work for a shorter time (fewer hours during the day, fewer days during the week, or a combination of both solutions), compared to that provided by law or collective agreement. Except for specific circumstances, employees do not have a right to part-time work.
Since 2000 the norms on part-time have been modified several times, in light of the European Part-time Workers Directive, principally with the aim of allowing a more flexible distribution of working time. Recently, in 2012, the so-called "Fornero" reform introduced additional provisions, including those governing the right to change or rescind clauses granting flexible distribution of working time. Since 2003, Italy has introduced new forms of flexible contracts (job sharing, on-call work) to provide greater flexibility to employees and try to adapt the working pattern to the need to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life.
Special flexible provisions, mostly deriving from the implementation of European directives, are applicable to the following categories of workers:
- Workers suffering from oncological diseases which limit their ability to work
- Relatives (spouse, children, parents) assisting individuals who suffer from oncological diseases or who are 100% incapable of working
- Workers assisting a cohabiting child younger than 13 or a cohabiting disabled child
- Female employees during pregnancy and for the first year of the child’s life
- Parents in the event of the sickness of a child who is up to eight years old. Similar rights are granted in case of adoption and custody.
Achieving a better balance between work and private life is the scope of Law 53/2000 (implementing the Parental Leave Directive), which encourages regional and local authorities to promote positive action by employers to reconcile family and working needs.
Homeworking is not yet regulated by any law in Italy: a proposal was presented in January but has not been approved yet. For the time being homeworking is ruled by the general agreement of 2004 signed by the Italian social partners, which implements the European framework agreement on teleworking of 2002, and by certain national collective bargaining.
Regulations, integrated by national collective bargaining, set out the possibility of making working hours more flexible without changing the type of contract itself. For instance, some collective agreements regulate the banking of time, which allows employee to accumulate a certain amount of hours worked in excess of normal working hours to be used later on to take time off.
Finally, it is worth noting that, under certain circumstances, rejecting work flexibility can be regarded as discriminatory.