Remote work in Italy: agreement on ‘smart working’ protocol beyond Covid-19

In Italy, remote work in the private sector would provide autonomy on working hours, the right to disconnect but no paid overtime.

Remote work
In Italy, remote workers will have autonomy of their working hours and the right to disconnect, but no paid overtime. | © Mikhail Nilov

On December 7, trade unions and employers’ federations agreed with the Italian ministry of Labor on remote work guidelines for the private sector beyond the Covid-19 pandemic period.

The framework is not legally binding but it provides fundamental principles for future legislation around work.

Remote work, referred to as lavoro agile (Agile work) or ‘smart working‘ in Italy, was included in a 2017 law but the Covid-19 pandemic and afferent societal changes created a need to update the framework.

Until the end of 2021, companies are able to impose remote work on their employees. But the legislation ends soon and remote work will likely continue for many Italians with no updated law yet.

The Italian government has therefore been working with twenty-six trade unions and employers’ associations on a framework for 2022, bringing more clarity in the workspace and setting the ground for formal regulations.

Smart working autonomy: no strict working hours and the right to disconnect

Smart working goes beyond work-from-home or telework concepts and aims at providing a better work-life balance or increasing agility in doing a job.

According to Italians representatives, agile work is “characterized by an absence of precise working hours and by autonomy in carrying out the service within the scope of the set objectives“. Telework and work from home don’t have the same autonomy in terms of work schedule and/or office location.

The agreement provides a framework, not legally binding yet, where remote work is provided voluntarily and needs a signed agreement for each individual. The contract would stipulate the arrangements between regular days and smart working days.

Moreover, people can change their minds and go back to more conventional office work. They also cannot be blamed, disciplined or fired if they refuse to adopt smart working.

Not having a fixed work schedule or time constraints during these smart working days also prevents employees from working overtime – and get paid extra for it – the protocol outlines.

But flexible working hours still allow articulating work within defined time slots. However, employees have the right to disconnect and dedicated time slots need to be clearly identified.

Companies provide work equipment

During legitimate time off like sick days, personal days or paid leave, workers have then the right to disconnect from work-related communication devices such as mobile phones or laptops. But they need to be charged on and operational when going back to work.

Employers should usually be in charge of providing the appropriate equipment to work but an agreement may let employees use their own devices. In that case, workers may be compensated for using their own equipment. But employees are liable for the damage to work tools if it results from negligent behaviors from them.

Flexible office location but companies responsible for the employee’s safety

People are free to identify workplaces anywhere they want as long as they are adequate to their jobs and conform to conditions of personal safety and confidentiality, including data processing, of the company. Some places may be forbidden in the contract if they don’t meet those requirements.

In fact, employers remain responsible for the safety and health of their workers while doing their jobs even if they are not in the office. The agile worker then has the right to protection against work accidents and occupational diseases. They keep the same rights in training and career opportunities.

The protocol for public sector employees has already been agreed upon a few weeks ago. And guidelines have some differences.

For instance, smart working forbids government employees from using their personal Internet network to work. Instead, they should use the network the government entity provides them with. The administration can also require people to come back to the office if necessary.

Read more about Italy

Protocollo Nazionale sul Lavoro Agile nel settore privato, Italian government, December 2021, Free access, Unsecure

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