Back in 2003, with the objective of giving employers and employees maximum flexibility to agree to working relations, the so-called zero hour contract, also known informally as “job on call,” was formally introduced into the Italian employment law regime. Under these contracts, the employee agrees to be available to work for the employer only at specific times, at the request of the employer. In Italy, the typical employment contract is still the traditional full-time, open ended one, so it comes as no surprise that this arrangement is largely viewed as punitive to employees and is subject to multiple restrictions.
The current rules provide for two different kinds of zero hour contracts:
- One type is when the employee is obligated to work whenever he or she receives the call from the employer. Under this arrangement, the employee is paid for his or her work plus his or her availability to be “on call” to work whenever the request comes in from the employer.
- A second type is when the employee can decide whether to accept or refuse to work when he or she receives the call from the employer. Under this arrangement, the employment contract, and the related remuneration, exists only if the employee accepts and performs the relevant work.
For both types, except for contracts covering certain types of work (such as, for example, industrial plant cleaning, providing internet services, lifeguarding, translating, performing hotel-related services or services at fairs and/or congresses, and others listed by the Minister of Labour Decree), the employee must be either under 24 years of age or over 55 years of age. The age restriction can be overcome for other types of work, if this is specifically allowed pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement at a national or local level.
Zero hour contracts can never be used, however, in the six months subsequent to mass redundancies procedures and they can never be used to replace employees who are on strike. Moreover, Italian statutory law provides for a maximum duration for these types of contracts: 400 working days in a period of three years (although this limit is not applicable to tourism business, shops and show business).