In the last couple of years, the Italian government has enacted a set of measures that allow employers to assign employees to lower duties than those previously performed.

Employers are now entitled to unilaterally assign an employee to lower duties, provided that the new duties are included within the same level (e.g., 1st level, 2nd level, 3rd level, 4th level) and the same category (e.g., manager/middle manager, white collar/blue collar) in which the employee was currently ranked under the applicable National Collective Bargaining Agreement (NCBA).

Organizational restructuring

Moreover, in the case of a reorganization of the company structure that will affect the position of an employee, the employer may assign the employee to lower duties (i.e., duties that one would normally expect to be given to a lower-level employee), provided that the new duties are consistent with the category already assigned to the employee. In such a scenario, the assignment to new duties must be in writing and the employee's level, category and salary must remain unchanged.

Under the new law, employers also may now assign an employee to lower duties, a lower level or a lower category and/or reduce his or her salary, by entering into an individual agreement to be executed before the employee's union representative or the competent labor authority. This applies to situations where a new employment agreement is necessary to preserve an employee’s job, to increase the employee’s professional skills or to enhance the employee's work-life balance.

Finally, should an employer assign an employee to higher duties, such assignment shall become permanent after an uninterrupted six-month period or, alternatively, for the period of time set forth in the applicable NCBA. The employee has the right to refuse the permanent assignment.

This new law points to the Italian government's clear focus on providing employers with the necessary flexibility to modify their companies' structure to suit their business needs.