What COVID-19 restrictions are currently in place in Italy, and what do they mean for employers?
Vaccination and the ‘Green Pass'
In Italy, vaccination against COVID-19 is currently mandatory for:
- teachers, members of the military and police forces, as well as all workers employed in prisons (until 15 June 2022);
- health, social and medical workers (until 31 December 2022)
- personnel in universities and artistic, musical and dance training institutions (until 15 June 2022);
- all Italian and European citizens who are over 50 and residing in Italy, as well as foreign nationals legally residing in Italy (until 15 June 2022).
An exemption from vaccination is only provided in the event a danger to the individual's health has been ascertained and certified by doctors who carry out vaccinations at local health authorities or by the general practitioner chosen by the worker. The obligation to be vaccinated is only deferred in the event of infection.
Until 30 April 2022, all private and public employees will be required to show the ‘Green Pass', a certification that can be obtained following a vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 infection or a negative test (within the previous 72 hours for a PCR test or 48 hours for a rapid test) in order to access the workplace (‘Basic Green Pass').
There is a higher level of certification, which is not generally required for access to the workplace: the ‘Super Green Pass' which proves the holder has been fully vaccinated or has recovered from the infection. This Super Green Pass cannot be obtained with a negative COVID test.
Employers are responsible for appointing one or more individuals to be in charge of checking the Green Pass, through a special Italian Government application (‘Verifica C19'). Employees may also ask to hand in a copy of their Green Pass to their employer to be exempted from being checked for the entire duration of its validity in this. In this respect, privacy aspect should be carefully assessed. In alternative, Employers with more than 50 employees can also apply for the access to the INPS ‘Greenpass50+' service. Through this service the employer carries out an automated check, without being necessary to verify employee's Green Pass when entering the workplace, of the possession of the green pass with reference to the list of employee's tax codes known to the Institute at the time of the request.
Employees without a valid Green Pass are considered unjustifiably absent from the workplace without pay until submission of a valid Green Pass and, in any case, no later than 30 April 2022. This does not have disciplinary consequences and employees remain entitled to keep their jobs.
Disciplinary action is permitted against employees without a valid Green Pass who enter the workplace by eluding the employer's checks.
Administrative sanctions apply for employers and employees:
- Employers: sanctions of between EUR 400 and EUR 1,000 can be imposed if appropriate checks are not made.
- Employees can be fined between EUR 600 and EUR 1,500 for entering the workplace without a valid Green Pass.
Refusal or inability to get vaccinated
Employees under the age of 50 can legitimately refuse to get vaccinated with no consequences from the Government or their employer, but must show a valid Green Pass to enter the workplace (i.e. a negative test or after recovery from the infection). Conversely, until 15 June 2022, people over the age of 50 may receive a fine of 100 EUR from the Government if they refuses to get vaccinated.
Only employees with specific health issues can be exempted from vaccination (and consequently from possessing the Green Pass). The exemption must be certified by a competent doctor identified by Italian legislation, (i.e. medici di medicina generale e pediatri di libera scelta dell'assistito; medici vaccinatori delle strutture sanitarie, pubbliche e private accreditate, afferenti ai servizi sanitari regionali; or medici USMAF e medici SASN).
As a general rule, employers have no right to information on employees' health and medical treatments.
Employers cannot know the basis for employees' Green Passes (i.e. if obtained through vaccination, test or recovery), or record the data obtained by checking Green Passes. For this reason, checks on the Green Pass may only be carried out through the Government ‘Verifica C19' app which does not register any data and doesn't show the ground for issuing the Green Pass. The ‘Verifica C19'app has been updated to verify both the Basic and Super Green Pass. Other methods allowed for checking the Green Pass, as mentioned above, are: voluntary handing over to the employer of a copy of own green pass or the service provided by INPS. In any case, the first alternative above this is not recommended.
As a general rule, the host company is responsible for the health and safety of posted employees in the workplace and, therefore, should take all necessary measures to protect these employees from the spread of COVID-19.
The hosting company is responsible for checking the possession of a valid Green Pass of the posted worker when entering the workplace.
Keeping workers safe in the office
In accordance with national protocol on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers should organize working activities to comply with the required social distancing and hygiene measures as well as providing workers with information on the conduct to be adopted as provided by law.
Considering the above, and especially taking into account the Green Pass requirement, which reduces the number of infected workers in the workplace, if an employee shows symptoms in the workplace, s/he should notify the employer immediately and self-isolate, then contact the doctor or public health authority to evaluate whether it is necessary to be tested. Employers can require an employee suspected of being infected not to come to work, but s/he has the right to continue receiving normal pay.
If a worker comes in contact with a positive person, in the workplace or elsewhere, s/he falls into the ‘close contact' category if s/he:
- shares a home with a COVID-19 case;
- has had direct physical contact with a COVID-19 case (e.g., handshake);
- has had unprotected direct contact with the secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., touching used tissues with bare hands);
- has had direct (face-to-face) contact with a COVID-19 case at a distance of less than 2 meters and at least 15 minutes;
- has been in an enclosed environment (e.g., classroom, meeting room, hospital waiting room) with a COVID-19 case in the absence of appropriate PPE;
- has travelled in a means of transportation within two places of the COVID-19 case.
If asymptomatic, the close contact will not be required to observe a quarantine period if s/he:
- has an enhanced Green Pass (except for a double shot and recovery from COVID-19 more than 120 days previously);
- has had a second vaccination dose within 120 days prior to infection.
The subject must observe a period of ten days' ‘self-surveillance' and wear an FFP2 mask.
In all other cases, including those who have had a second dose 14 days prior to contact with the infected person, the worker must observe a five-day quarantine. At the end of the quarantine period, the subject must perform a test and wear an FFP2 mask for the next five days.
Failure to apply these measures will entail financial sanctions up to suspension of activity for violations. The Government and labour authorities have made it clear that employees who have contracted the virus in the workplace will be considered absent because of a workplace ‘accident' and not because of ‘illness', meaning the employer is responsible for demonstrating that all appropriate preventive measures were in place.
Public authorities will inform the employer through an INPS (national social welfare institution) declaration of their duty to notify the infection and the absence from work for a certain defined time. The infected person's privacy must always be respected.
Following public authorities' and the company doctor's instructions, the employer must identify the list of the infected employee's close contacts in the workplace and require them to self-isolate.
The employer should communicate to the workforce, in cooperation with the company doctor, that an infection has been identified in the workplace but on the infected person's privacy must always be respected.
When the employee tests positive, his or her Green Pass is automatically revoked. When the employee tests negative again after the positive test, s/he obtains a new Green Pass, allowing a return to work.
Long-term home working
In March 2020, the Government instructed companies to use a simplified form of smart working which does not need any individual agreement between employer and employee, only a simple communication to the employee and to the Ministry of Labour. The employee should be instructed about health and safety rules on smart working and be given with the INAIL note on the prevention of risks. This simplified form of smart working will be in place until 30 June 2022.
Organisations are recommended to have a corporate smart working policy regulating the provision of working equipment for employees and what expenses the organisation is willing to pay. The policy should also cover how the loss of the employer's confidential information can be avoided and should address methods used by the employer to monitor smart workers, whilst respecting their privacy (e.g. by having and respecting a privacy notice).
The employer must ensure employees' health and safety and deliver health and safety guidance. When carrying out smart working, employees can freely choose the place from which they work: the employee is required to cooperate in the implementation of safety measures to address the risks associated with the working outside the employer's premises.
Starting from 1 July 2022, if no extensions are made, employers and employees should sign individual agreements to regulate the conditions of smart working, in compliance with the New Protocol for Smart Working signed with the social parties on 7 December 2021.
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.