Italy Work Culture
To do business in Italy, it is vital to have a good understanding of its business or work culture. Making the right impression with the right people is the key to success in Italy, and it is important to back this up with the right research on the market and potential business associates.
Italian business culture is hierarchical, flexible, and sociable, and their working practices are both focused and person-oriented. Employees in Italy work long hours and are very productive. Communication between peers is both personal and professional.
Nevertheless, there is a growing appreciation of striking a work/life balance through flexitime and taking opportunities for remote working, but in the office itself etiquette still plays a key role. Here are a few tips and working practices you should be familiar with before starting on your international expansion into Italy:
- Hierarchy: Italian business culture respects the hierarchical structure – job titles and responsibilities are important, and your position in the company may determine how one can speak with or address superiors and subordinates. Decisions are made from up high, and whilst subordinates may express their opinions, they must be cautious about giving out explicit advice or constructive criticism.
- Work Relationships/Friendships: In Italy, locals generally like to establish relaxed personal relationships. They tend to be curious, asking questions about you, your family, and personal interests. This is important to the establishment of trust in a business relationship.
- Introductions: Introductions in Italy tend to be formal. Shake hands with everyone in the room, and address people by their title and last name. Before meetings begin, business cards are exchanged, and they should have an Italian translation on the reverse.
- Dress Code: A person’s presentation plays an important role in the Italian culture, and a fashionable style is considered as a sign of a person’s social status. In Italy, a conservative style is mostly accepted, but more informal clothing is common outside of large companies and financial circles. The dress code for men is dark suits, and the dress code for women is dark, elegant pant suits or skirt suits, accessorized with simple jewelry and makeup.
- Punctuality: Punctuality is not a main concern in Italy. Work plans are not taken too strictly, so often some flexibility is built into a deadline. For meetings, guests are expected to be on time for meetings, but be prepared for some delay, due to waiting for their Italian business associate.
- Negotiations: Business communication is generally carried out in English, although the use of a professional translator is common amongst businessmen in Italy. Negotiations tend to be lengthy and are conducted slowly due to the hierarchical decision-making process. Italians also tend to carefully evaluate advantages and risks.
- Agreements: The decision-making process is quite lengthy in Italy, due to the hierarchical structure of many of its businesses. Verbal agreements and handshakes bond an agreement. However, most agreements are in writing. It is also expected of business associates to act on their part of the deal, as unreliability is looked down upon.
- Communication: In Italy, discussions can be very lively. Italians often say what is on their mind, and it is common for them to express any disagreement and constructive criticism during meetings and negotiations.
- Meals: Hospitality plays an important part in Italy’s business culture. Business meals are used to cement relationships, as well as discuss business. Refusing an invitation will most often be seen as an insult.
Italian Minimum Wage
Italy does not have a government-regulated minimum wage and is one of the few European countries that do not have one. There is no minimum wage at national or regional level either.
The minimum wage rate is then determined by collective bargaining agreements on a sector-by-sector basis, or individual contract negotiation – but this is not always applied. However, employees must receive a salary that is equal with the quality and quantity of their work and is also sufficient to guarantee a decent lifestyle for themselves and their family.
Wages are not capped, but caps are considered for the purpose of social security contributions.
Probation Periods in Italy
In Italy, probation periods may vary according to the individual or collective agreement, but they are limited to a maximum duration of six months. The probationary period must be included in the employment contract.
Working Hours in Italy
The normal working week in Italy is 40 hours, however, this may vary according to the industry and sector.
In the private sector, Italians tend to work long hours – they are typically 9am to 1pm, and 2:30pm to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday. However, you will find employees still at work after 6pm, which is seen especially with higher management.
In the public sector, typical working hours are from 8am to 2pm, from Monday to Saturday. Many public offices tend to compensate for not working on Sunday with working some afternoons.
Workers are also entitled to a rest period of at least 24 hours every seven days, typically not working on Sundays.
Lunch breaks are kept to a minimum – however, when business lunches with Italian business partners, they tend to last long. Business lunches are used to build or reinforce a personal relationship.
Overtime in Italy
Any work done in excess during the work week is considered overtime, according to Italian law. However, it must be with a maximum of 48 hours. The lowest statutory rates for overtime are 10%, but this can be raised by collective bargaining.
If not specified in the employment agreement, overtime cannot exceed 48 hours weekly or 250 hours yearly.