The Charter on Equal Opportunities and Equality at Work is not
mandatory; rather, companies can decide to adhere to it with regard
to their specific circumstances and alongside existing programmes.
So far, over 50 major Italian companies have chosen to comply with
the charter's principles and the number is growing
By virtue of this legal framework, companies can achieve
numerous benefits from the implementation of equal opportunity
policies, such as: (i) greater staff satisfaction and a consequent
improvement in the working environment; (ii) an enhanced corporate
image and reputation; (iii) opportunities in new markets that are
made possible by exceeding competitors' equality standards; and
(iv) optimum conditions for recognizing and attracting the most
Thus, charter compliance is not only ethically and socially
progressive, but also makes economic and competitive sense, as
shown by the effects of similar measures in France and Germany.
Overview of the charter
Following a legislative path laid by France and Germany, the
charter was issued in Italy on October 5 2009 and has since been
signed by a considerable range of Italian companies on a voluntary
basis. It is a declaration of 10 principles - rather than detailed
rules - that involve every level of working organizations and aim
to promote non-discrimination in company culture and human
The charter provides a framework of commitments to guide
companies in implementing effective programmes for change,
encompassing everything from the hiring phase and the execution of
fair company policies to periodic monitoring of employees and the
promotion of career planning.
Furthermore, the charter reinforces the importance of the new
regulations that were recently introduced by Legislative Decree
5/2010, which implemented EU Directive 54/2006. Legislative Decree
5/2010 also amended Legislative Decree 198/2006, known as the Equal
Opportunity Code, notably in extending the definition of
'discrimination', both direct and indirect, and providing
various measures to protect equality in employment.
In order to ensure equal professional and economic treatment at
work, Legislative Decree 5/2010 provides for a range of fines -
from €250 to €1,500 - and for the termination of
illegal discriminatory conduct and the removal of its effects.
Failure to comply with a labour court decision is punishable by a
fine of up to €50,000 or up to six months'
In this regard, the charter is a useful measure for avoiding the
severe penalties that may be imposed for discriminatory behaviour
by an employer.
Summary of key principles
The first principle relates to the need to define and apply fair
business policies, which must ensure equal dignity and treatment in
the workplace at all organizational levels.
Employers must designate a position and role with responsibility
for equal opportunity matters within the business environment.
Stereotypes based on gender are to be overcome through
appropriate policies, adequate training and by directly promoting
awareness among all staff.
Equal treatment must be implemented in human resources processes
- including hiring, training and career development - in order to
ensure that all decisions are taken purely on the basis of
employees' skills, experience and professional potential.
Companies are recommended to place special emphasis on the
importance of diversity in order to approach the issue
appropriately and to ensure periodic monitoring of the impact of
Thus, the charter's recommendations underline the importance
of (i) using appropriate instruments to protect ethical values, and
(ii) implementing practical measures to achieve a balance between
work time and personal time to encourage flexible working
practices, particularly for maternity leave.
Companies are advised to share their equal opportunity projects
with all staff, promote their efforts in the field of
non-discrimination and communicate the positive results and
improvements that they achieve.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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