The Italian Parliament has recently approved the law No. 162/2021 (the “Equality Law” , available here) aimed at strengthening equality between men and women and fighting discrimination at the workplace, by introducing relevant amendments to the Legislative Decree No. 198/2006 (known as the “Equal opportunities Code”).
The Equality Law will be in force as of December 3rd, 2021.
Direct and indirect discrimination at workplace
The Equality Law expands the cases of direct and indirect discriminatory conducts by including any treatment or change in the organization and in the working time which puts an employee in a disadvantageous position or restricts his/her opportunities to participate in company life or to progress in the career due to his/her sex, age, personal or family care needs, and pregnancy/maternity/paternity.
The Biennial Report on equal opportunities
The Equality Law extends to companies with more than 50 employees (the former threshold was of 100 employees) the duty to draw up a biennial report (the “Biennial Report”) on the gender pay differences and employment situation of male and female employees. Companies employing up to 50 individuals can draw up the Biennial Report on voluntary basis.
The Biennial Report shall contain information on the gender pay differences and employment situation of male and female employees having regard, for example, to new hires, dismissals, trainings and promotions. The Biennial Report is to be drawn up electronically, on a template available on the Ministry of Labour website e then delivered to the works councils.
Failure to draw up the Biennial Report (if such failure prolongs for 12 months) is subject to a one-year suspension of the contribution breaks for the company. In case the Biennial Report is incomplete or mendacious, a sanction from EUR 1,000 to EUR 5,000 shall be applied.
The “Gender Equality Certificate” and contribution exemptions
As from 2022, companies who draw up the Biennial Report, even if voluntary, can apply for the “Gender Equality Certificate” - to be given by authorities/associations still to be identified - if they have met certain targets aimed at ensuring equality between male and female employees, in terms of salaries, job opportunities, management of gender differences and maternity safeguards.
Employers who have obtained the Gender Equality Certificate are entitled to:
an exemption from the payment of the social security contributions up to maximum of 1% of the due social contributions (in any case not exceeding EUR 50,000.00 per year);
a bonus score which will be taken into account by the relevant Authorities when evaluating the eventual co-financing (through state aids) of investments made by the employer who submitted project proposal.
Gender equality within Board of Directors
Lastly, the Equality Law extended the obligation to have at least 2/5 of the members of the Board of Directions of public-non-listed companies (“Società non quotate controllate dalle Pubbliche Amministrazioni”) composed by the less represented gender. This obligation was already in force only for listed companies (Società quotate in mercati regolamentati”).
Authored by Vittorio Moresco and Francesca Lauro.