The Italian Civil Code (the Civil Code) precludes "waivers and compromise settlements of rights arising from mandatory provisions of the law and collective agreements or arrangements concerning article 409 of the code of civil procedure” .
This provision implies that an employee may not validly waive or compromise claims concerning mandatory rights or rights which are obtained from collective bargaining agreements. Indeed, the Code goes further by entitling an employee to commence a legal action in order to challenge the validity of such waivers or compromise settlements within six months. However, the provisions are subject to exceptions and the Civil Code does in fact allow such settlements where they are concluded before the Labour Judge, the local Labour Office or with the involvement of a trade union or employers’ association.
Despite the limited exceptions to the prohibition on settlements outlined above, in reality, representatives of local Labour Offices, trade unions or employers’ associations and even employment Courts, rarely play an active role in such settlement procedures. In practice, the terms and conditions of the settlement are negotiated in the vast majority of cases by the parties’ lawyers and the role of the above mentioned authorities is merely formal.
A recent amendment to the Civil Code, which is awaiting final approval on 12 November, 2014, will relax the strict exceptions and allow parties to settle disputes which relate to mandatory rights or collective agreement with the assistance of a lawyer. If this provision comes into force, therefore, settlement with the assistance of the local Labour Office, trade unions or employers’ associations would no longer be necessary to ensure the terms of agreement may not be challenged as invalid under the Civil Code.
If this recent amendment to the Civil Code is adopted, it will reduce significantly the costs associated with settlement of such disputes and also shorten the amount of time involved, which has proved substantial. The proposed amendment to the Civil Code will need to be endorsed by November 12, 2014 or will be repealed.