Work and family reconciliation policies – which would be in principle destined to all citizens but, in our country, are still predominantly addressed to women – include political measures in favour of parenthood and care taking that, according to the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, might contribute to tackling the issue of the low Italian female employment rate. From tax relief for working women to flexible work schedules for working parents, work-life balance policies include a number of strategies aimed at “preventing women from being forced to choose between having children or having a job”, as the Italian government’s website reports.
On the 11th of June, the Council of Ministers finally approved the decree implementing the Jobs Act: a regulation containing measures aimed at reconciling health, life and work necessities. The decree – adopted in accordance with law 183 (article 1, paragraphs 8 and 9) of December 2014 – comes into force with the legislative decree that reforms contracts and allows workers to undertake the transition to part-time in case of severe diseases or parental leave.
The new regulations concerning reconciliation of work and family life focus on leaves. Maternity leave has been made more flexible in order to facilitate the request in particular cases such as premature birth or the newborn hospitalization. On the other hand, the possibility of benefiting from facultative or parental leave – entitling to 30% of the daily retribution – has been extended from 3 to 6 years of children’s age, further extendable up to 8 years for less well-off families. Unpaid leave – envisaging work suspension with the conservation of the job place – can be requested until the child is 12 years old, while paternal leave can be requested by all types of worker’s categories. Finally, it is important to mention the fact that from now on self-employed workers and freelance professionals will be receiving maternity allowances even when employers did not pay contributions associated with their work (which would not allow them to access social security benefits), finally establishing the principle of “automaticity” of benefits also for self-employed workers.
Two provisions are worthy to be mentioned in reference to the ‘Testo unico’ (26 of march 2001) on maternity and paternity support, which covers topics such as teleworking and gender violence. Private sector’s employers who apply teleworking arrangements in order to meet parental needs will be able to exclude the workers involved from the count of the number of employees. Finally, a 3 months paid leave has been introduced for victims of gender violence (both fully employed and part time). These women are offered rehabilitation programs and can either use the leave at different times or decide to swap to part time (and later on return to the original working status).
Even though measures in favour of parenthood have been positively assessed by some – trade unions, although remaining critical towards the Jobs Act, expressed satisfaction for the novelties in terms of work-life balance and childcare – they are just a starting point (on this, see also Casarico and Del Boca – lavoce.info). At the moment, these measures are experimentally financed only for the year of 2015. Moreover, two crucial questions previously mentioned by the government have ‘disappeared’ from the regulation: tax credit as an incentive for female employment and the re-organization and promotion of a more efficient and homogeneously distributed system of childcare and social services on the whole national territory.