ITALY BENEFITS

For starters, you can expect 12 national holidays and at least four weeks of vacation, often five or six, depending on your contract. Many people end up taking off two weeks around Christmas and most of the month of August. Italian cities traditionally close down in August, although this is slowly changing. More companies have decided to spread out their employees’ vacations to alleviate the frustration of international clients. (It also means less summer traffic on highways and fully booked resorts.) If you don’t use up all four or five weeks in a year, you can theoretically carry over your vacation days into the next year, though many companies require you to periodically go on vacation to make bookkeeping easier.

There are 12 bank holidays nationwide, and each city also gets its patron saint’s day off. Romans, for example, celebrate Saints Peter and Paul (June 29), while workers in Milan get Saint Ambrose’s day off (December 7). If a saint’s day or national holiday falls on a Friday or Monday, workers naturally get a three-day weekend. Even better, if it falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, it generally becomes a ponte (bridge)”a four-day weekend. For Romans, it means a fortuitous beach holiday, while Saint Ambrose marks the beginning of ski season for the Milanese.

Maternity entails five months of paid leave, spread out on either side of giving birth. Women on maternity leave receive 80 percent of their salary. Furthermore, they can request an additional six months off at 30 percent pay and be guaranteed their jobs when they want to return to work. It is not uncommon for a woman to file for extra sick days above and beyond those nine months. Like any other sick day in Italy, it needs to be backed up by a doctor’s note. A company can send a state inspector to the person’s home as well, to make sure that it is not just an excuse to go shopping. In general, employees are allowed 180 days of paid sick leave. Above and beyond that, the matter is referred to the pensions office, as the person is considered disabled. Either way, Italians don’t need to worry too much about staying healthy in order to keep their salaries.

Indeed, job security is so solid in Italy that companies must prove a just cause bordering on an egregious breach, such as breaking the law, in order to fire somebody. Countless lawsuits”or even the threat thereof”have resulted in a fired employee’s reinstatement. One such high-profile case involved baggage handlers at an airport in Milan. They were caught on videotape stealing valuables such as cash and jewels from passengers’ luggage, found guilty in court, but never fired. In fact, it is nearly impossible to terminate an employee’s lifetime contract, as even the justified motive of downsizing has to be cleared with the unions first. Most companies prefer to just brush the worker aside by keeping up salary payments but not requiring his or her presence at work.

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