Italy announced that it will be making the EU’s Green Pass mandatory for all private, public, and self-employed workers in order to access their place of work, as of the 15th of October. This will have far-reaching effects on the workers and businesses of Italy, with penalties in place to ensure that workers are not at risk of spreading COVID-19 as the country moves towards economic recovery.
This Decree has been met with the backing of most employers’ federations as well as union leaders, with procedures in place to ensure that testing for unvaccinated workers are both accessible and affordable.
Here is how the Green Pass will affect workers, businesses and the penalties and exemptions of this Law Decree.
What is the Green Pass?
First defined by the European Regulation 2021/953 and now Italy’s Law Decree, the Green Pass is a certificate which may be in either digital or in print which has been issued by the Italian Ministry of Health’s national platform. It may be issued if an individual possesses any of the following certifications:
- A COVID-19 vaccination certificate – for those who have completed the vaccination cycle. This pass is valid for one year from the date of the last vaccine administration.
- A negative test result from a molecular/antigenic COVID-19 test that has been issued in the last 72 (molecular) or 48 hours (antigenic).
- A certificate stating the recovery from COVID-19 which has been issued in the last six months.
This requirement for a Green Pass applies to both private and public sector workers, the self-employed, and workers in training or carrying out voluntary work.
However, there are exemptions to this Law Decree. The Green Pass requirement does not apply to workers that are unable to get the COVID-19 vaccine – they must, however, provide a medical certificate stating their exemption.
In the case of individuals involved in the justice system – lawyers, magistrates, witnesses, etc. – access to the public courts will not require a Green Pass, but they must have a Green Pass in order to access other public places, such as a law firm.
The Penalties – Fines, Suspension, etc.
The main penalties for not following the regulations of the Law Decree are fines on both the employer and worker, as well as worker suspensions. In this case, suspension involves no right to compensation or any other type of payment, until they provide a valid Green Pass. However, employers are prohibited from dismissing their suspended employees – no sanctions may be imposed on workers, and job retention rights must be maintained. The sectors, however, implement these penalties differently:
- Private workers who do not possess a Green Pass or are unable to produce a Green Pass will be considered to be under ‘unauthorized absence’ and will be suspended from their workplace.
- Public workers will be marked under unauthorized absence from day one but are only officially suspended after 5 consecutive days of not providing a valid Green Pass.
If the regulations or provisions are breached, both the employees and employers may be fined by the authorities with the following penalties:
- Workers: a fine from 600-1500 EUR for those who access their workplace without a Green Pass.
- Employers: a fine from 400-1000 EUR for those who have not implemented the proper verification procedures for the Green Pass.
For how long will this be required?
Italy is still under a ‘state of emergency’ and this Decree is only valid until the official last day of this implementation, which is the 31st of December 2021.
However, there is a possibility of the date being extended to sometime in 2022, depending on how the country’s vaccination rate and number trends of COVID-19 cases.
How this affects workers
Italy has the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths after Britain, with more than 130,000 deaths since the pandemic surfaced in Europe in 2020.
The Law Decree has been introduced to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 (as well as its new variants) are kept to an absolute and manageable minimum while the country tries to recover from the difficulties wrought on its population and economy.
The Green Pass implementation has now crossed into the realm of working spaces. Back in August, the Green Pass was implemented for access to frequented public spaces such as train stations, cinemas, restaurants, gyms, and swimming pools.
In order to apply for and receive a Green Pass, you must follow a few, but simple steps:
- Acquire a residence permit and/or National Health Card
- Take a COVID-19 test, COVD- vaccine, or recover from COVID-19 and alert the authorities
- Once done, an issue of the certification will be sent by either email or SMS, where it can be accessed through any of the following digital portals:
- The Digital Identity portal (Spid/Cie)
- The Regional Electronic Health Record File
- Downloading either the Applmmuni or App IO apps
- However, if you do not have access to any of these digital resources, you may simply contact your GP, pediatrician of free choice, or regional pharmacy, who will provide it for you.
The certificates are available in English, Italian, French and German.
With regards to self-employed workers, co-working spaces will be subject to the same requirements as other workplaces (for checks, but not suspensions).
For testing, the government has implemented a price cap for COVID-19 tests – for workers, at 15 EUR, and EUR 8 for minors. These are imposed on pharmacy-administered rapid antigen tests. Those that are medically exempt from vaccines may get tested for free.
In the case of unvaccinated employee testing, employers have may provide these tests to them for free.
What about migrant workers?
Due to the labor shortages affected food supply chains during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many European countries, including Italy, began to regularize undocumented migrants.
A regularization scheme was launched in May 2020, but it was soon evident that the scheme contained numerous flaws, including a limited selection of eligible sectors that migrants can apply for, serious delays, and excessive bureaucracy to work through.
Migrants waiting for their regularization remain vulnerable – without access to healthcare, as well as (until recently) a COVID-19 vaccine.
Reservations for a COVID-19 vaccine require a code from Italy’s national health cards, which are issued to those that have a residence permit. To combat this, migrants are issued with a “temporarily present foreigner” (STP) code to obtain access to healthcare services, including vaccines.
However, this has not been implemented across all regions of Italy – so access to the COVID-19 vaccine varies for migrants, according to their region.
How this affects workplaces
Workplaces in Italy are also affected by the Green Pass Law Decree. Employers in Italy are required to:
- implement and define their operating procedures for employee organization and Green Pass checks, including their spot checks.
- Identify those who will be in charge of workers’ Green Pass checks before they enter the workplace, as well as reporting any violations.
An additional decree will be issued by the Prime Minister, with more guidelines detailing the regulation of carrying out Green Pass verifications.
For small businesses, a suspension of an employee may mean more to the business than a large one. The Decree takes this in mind, by providing a specific procedure which allows small businesses with less than 15 employees to temporarily replace their suspended workers.
Suspension is initiated on the fifth day of non-presentation of a Green Pass, and employers may enter into temporary contracts to replace the suspended workers for a maximum of 10 days.
For suspended employees, their suspension is effective for the duration of the temporary employment contract of their replacement.
There has also been talk of introducing databases in place of daily Green Pass checks. The Education Ministry has developed a centralized database for school which requires schools to enter their employees’ green pass status, which not only helps with employee privacy
The Green Pass Law Decree presents a challenge to both employees and employers as the country and the world are progressing towards a normality of work and the workplace, after a year and a half of economic uncertainty.
Penalizations and suspensions will have an effect on businesses, so it is vital for employers to ensure that the workplace is functioning as best as it can, with a primary focus on employee safety.
Enforcement of the decree is crucial for businesses to run as smoothly as they can whilst the country recovers.