Italian Fight to Gender Equality
Italy has implemented important new measures to fight the gender equality gap through Law no. 162/2021 (Law no. 162).
In more detail, Law no. 162 broadens the scope of “discrimination” to include any treatment due to gender, age, personal or family care needs, or state of pregnancy, maternity, or paternity that:
Puts (or could put) the employee in a position of disadvantage with respect to the other employees.
Limits (or could limit) the opportunities of the employee to participate in the company’s life or choices.
Limits (or could limit) the employee’s career path.
Furthermore, Law no. 162 widens the scope of the protection against a gender gap to grant employees and professionals rights even in the recruiting phase.
Actually, Law no. 162 is much more than that.
Through Law no. 162, the Italian legislature takes action and calls upon the business world to comply with the new measures: Indeed, verification systems are provided to effectively reduce the gender gap.
Until now, only public and private employers with more than 100 employees were required to complete a report on their personnel’s situation. However, under Law no. 162 entities employing more than 50 employees are required to complete, every two years (by 31 December), a formal report (Report) providing information, among other things, on the number of male and female employees, the number of men and women hired over the period, and differences in pay treatment, level, and role. By doing so, this legislation applies to approximately 28,000 entities.
In addition, a Report must contain information regarding the recruiting processes and specify how employees and work councils may access the file in order to benefit from legal protection, if needed, in compliance with the data protection regulation. The Minister of Labor will provide further instructions.
It is also worth mentioning that Law no. 162 is not a “soft law” instrument, but rather a binding regulation. Indeed, the National Labor Inspectorate is entitled to take action in order to verify the genuineness of a Report. In the case of a mendacious or incomplete Report, an administrative fine ranging between €1,000 and €5,000 may be triggered.
Moreover, failing to submit a Report by the required deadline may lead, after an initial warning to comply, to an administrative sanction between €515 and €2,580. In case of noncompliance longer than 12 months, any company failing to comply therewith may lose its social security benefits.
As of 1 January 2022, a further measure has been implemented: the “Gender Equality Certification.” This is a tool designed to certify the employer’s effective implementation of policies and substantial measures aimed at reducing the gender gap. Further decrees to be issued by the president of the Council of Ministers are supposed to establish the following:
The minimum requirements to be met for the achievement of the Gender Equality Certification.
A proper monitoring system.
Involvement of work councils, trade unions, and competent bodies.
The Gender Equality Certification’s publicity.
Private companies owing the Gender Equality Certification may benefit (i) from an exemption from the payment of social security contributions, within the limit of a global allocation equal to €50 million in 2022; and (ii) a bonus score to apply for public aid by national and regional European funding authorities.
Although Italy is still at the back of the queue in the race for gender equality, Law no. 162 represents an important step forward, hopefully capable of effectively changing the scenario in the day-by-day experience.
All the above should be read in conjunction with the provisions of the Simplification Decree 2021 (DL no. 77/2021), which—in the context of special tender procedures relating to public investments—expressly requires entrepreneurs to produce a copy of the last Report submitted, along with the certification of compliance of the Report with the one sent to the trade unions/work councils, under penalty of exclusion from tenders.
A further practical aspect, to be monitored during 2022, will be the impact that these requirements will have in the context of corporate transactions: The hope is that compliance with the provisions of Law no. 162 will represent a valuable asset in the companies’ evaluation. This could contribute to accelerating the path toward effective gender equality.
Although there is widespread awareness that a real transformation can only take place along with a genuine sociocultural change, based on the promotion of training and social infrastructures, we believe that the reform implemented by the Italian government can, on the one hand, contribute to raise the awareness of stakeholders and lead them towards a greater consideration of gender equality as a founding value of corporate reality and, on the other hand, be able to affect the daily life of employers, encouraging the experimentation and adoption of procedures and conducts with high social impact.