The Italian Parliament has eventually approved a bill containing a number of provisions in matter of self-employment and smart working.
The new Act was promptly labelled the “Jobs Act for Self-Employed Workers” with a view to dignifying it as a reform of the legislation in matter of self-employment as important as the so-called “Jobs Act”, which is the reform of the employment legislation passed by the Government of Mr. Renzi in year 2015.
Indeed, both the reform of the employment legislation passed by the Government of Mr. Monti (the so-called “Fornero Reform”) and then that of the Government of Mr. Renzi were aimed, amongst other things, at discouraging as much as possible the resort to forms of self-employment work. Thus, Sect. 1 of the presently-in-force Legislative Decree no. 81 of June 15th, 2015 (one of the Acts forming with others the so-called “Jobs Act”) states that the employment contract of unlimited duration is the common form of employment contract in Italy and Sect. 2 of the same piece of legislation significantly narrows the possibility to lawfully resort to self-employment contracts.
As a result, the purposes of the new Act does not really look to be consistent with those of the most recent reforms of the Italian employment legislation.
Yet, statistics as reported by the press reveal that self-employed workers would be no less than two million in Italy, with really few chances, at least for those willing to, to have their contracts voluntary transformed into employment contracts of unlimited duration. Too high a number for the Government and the politicians in general to neglect the instance of self-employed workers of having a level of protection of their work fairly comparable to that afforded to employees by the Italian legislation.
In terms of contents, the new Act does not modify the provisions of Legislative Decree no. 81/2015 as above referred to, nor does it materially alter the regulation of self-employment contracts, as shaped by the Italian civil law. It identifies, however, a category of unfair clauses which, if contained in a self-employment contract, would be ineffective and entitle the self-employed worker to a compensation for damages. It would amount to an unfair clause that allowing the principal to modify the terms and conditions of the contract at its sole election or to terminate the contract without notice, as well as that contemplating terms of payment of the compensation in favour of the worker longer than 60 days. The refusal of the principal to enter into a self-employment contract in writing would be unfair too. Furthermore, the application of the rules of law in matter of inventions of the employees has been extended to self-employed workers.
Most of all, the new Act instates rules aimed at facilitating the access of self-employed workers to job opportunities, as well rules in a matter of social security and tax benefits.
In fact, the Governmental Employment Agencies and temporary work agencies will have to set up a desk in every office of the same open to the public to match the supply and demand of self-employed workers. Moreover, the central and the local governments will be held to promote the bids of self-employed workers for tenders of services in general and consultancy services in particular.
In the field of social security, it is affirmed the principle that absences for maternity leaves, sicknesses or accidents at work do not imply the termination of a self-employment contract, but an unpaid stay of its performance no longer than one hundred and fifty days per year. In addition, self-employed workers are to be paid the maternity benefit contemplated by the law even if they do not suspend their activities during legal period of maternity leave. Upon certain conditions self-employed workers are also granted paid parental leaves up to six months in the aggregate during the first three years of life of their children. As of July 1st, 2017 the unemployment benefits for self-employed workers introduced for the first time in year 2015 will be extended to scholars and doctoral candidates. Eventually, the Government is delegated to issue legislative decrees within the next twelve months to widen the access to maternity benefits and the categories of workers eligible to benefit from sickness indemnity, as well as to introduce social relieves for those private practitioners who have involuntarily undergone a serious downturn of their income.
As to income taxation, training expenses have been included among the deductible costs with a cap and limits have been removed to the deductibility of accommodation and board expenses borne by self-employed workers for the performance of their activities.
As a separate matter, the new Act faces for the first time in Italy the issue of smart working in an attempt to set a definition and outline a general regulation of the same. Thus, it is to be considered smart working a contract of employment for a limited or an unlimited duration under which an employee may discharge his/her duty without a fixed working time and a fixed workstation, even with the use of informatics and technological devices. The Act requires for smart working to be agreed upon in writing by the employer and the employee. Although not fixed, the working time must not exceed the maximum daily and weekly working time set by the law and the applicable collective bargaining employment agreement. Rest periods must be contemplated by the agreement, with the right of the employee to be disconnected from the technological devices during such periods. Apart from the arrangements in terms of place of work and working time, equality is required as to the terms and conditions of employment of smart workers and those of the other employees. Needless to say that the legislation in matter of social security, sickness, safety at work and in general the entire legislation governing the ordinary forms of employment applies to smart working too.