“There is a profound cultural and economic injustice that blocks the careers of Italian women. This law is a first step towards redressing this injustice”. These are the words of Chiara Gribaudo, MP from the Partito Democratico party (Democratic Party), and first to sign the ‘Equal Pay and Workplace Opportunities Act‘, which was recently passed by Parliament.
The law finally passed by a unanimous vote in the House and Senate after a very long process that spanned three governments. Chiara Gribaudo regards it as a great success: she has been fighting for labour rights since she was elected to the House in March 2013. The six articles on gender pay equality complement the 2006 Equal Opportunities Code. The aim is to close the gender pay gap, i.e. the difference in pay between women and men, and to expose discrimination, including indirect discrimination, in the workplace.
“The law gives substance to the principles of fairness already enshrined in the Constitution and in the Anselmi law of 1977, all at risk of remaining unenforceable”, says Gribaudo. The text works on two tracks: transparency and premiums.
Wording in the law
Companies with over 50 employees must report on staff structure according to different indicators: salaries, internal organisation, career opportunities, inclusiveness and work-life balance. They must then submit this report to the Ministry of Labour, Labour Inspectorate, trade unions and Equality Officers. The report will also be made available to workers on a public platform, thus ensuring transparency and access to information.
Companies who fail to, or even improperly file their report risk fines of between €1,000 and €5,000, and can even lose tax relief. The Gender-Parity Certificate was created as an incentive to recognise companies that take concrete steps to reduce the gender gap, taking into account opportunities for growth, equal pay for equal work and maternity protection. Companies who secure certification will be entitled to tax relief of up to €50,000 and an advantageous mechanism in public tenders. The law also provides for the possibility for companies with fewer than 50 employees to comply with the report and thereby access the relief.
The law gives substance to the principles of fairness already enshrined in the Constitution and in the Anselmi law of 1977, all at risk of remaining unenforceable.
Democratic Party MP Chiara Gribaudo
A great step forward
Chiara Gribaudo sees this victory as first and foremost political. “It will remain one of the very few parliamentary-initiative laws passed in this legislature, a sign that when Parliament is given a chance to debate, even from a wide spectrum of opinions, we can find solutions that broaden the scope of citizens’ rights”, she explains. “Parliament has delivered an advanced text at an EU level, where Italy is currently at the bottom of the league table in terms of equality and inclusion. I have worked with my parliamentary colleagues to pool everyone’s contributions and render the broadest possible consensus. A unanimous vote sends a powerful message to the country and the government”.
Before this law, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report estimated that it would take Italy 200 years to close the wage gap. Too long, unsustainable and unacceptable.
“The ball is now in the government’s court,” says Gribaudo, “which will have to approve the implementing decrees. The bill will come into force at the beginning of the year, together with the reporting obligation to secure Gender-Parity Certification. Using the data collected, women will be able to see whether or not there is a focus on gender equality in the place where they work or would like to work. Companies will have another impetus to adopt good organisations to improve their reputation and take advantage of the available incentives”.
Still on the To-do list
The gender pay gap can come in different forms, with different levels of inequity, yet usually worsens with increasing levels of employment and tasks in the company. In Italy, the wage gap reaches 17% in the private sector: in practice, women do not advance in their careers, despite accounting for 56% of graduates, and they occupy only 28% of managerial and executive positions.
The data from the Italian Social Welfare Institute (INPS) speak loud and clear: two decades after the first maternity leave, a woman with children earns up to 12% less than a woman without children. The percentage of mothers with at least one child who have never worked (11.1%) is nearly three times the European average of 3.7%. The Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) estimates that 65% of women are involuntarily employed in part-time jobs compared to 11% of men. This divide burst wide open with the pandemic, as it took the jobs of nearly half a million women.
Good laws can help, but they alone are not enough: we need everyone’s efforts, inside and outside Parliament, to bring them to life
That is why our work is not finished with this law. “There are further measures closely related to equal pay, and they also pursue women’s emancipation as a goal, through fair and equal pay for women and the sharing of parental duties, so that men can also experience what caring for children means”, says Gribaudo. “Let me mention just one: the Democratic Party’s bill for compulsory maternity and paternity leave for five months, equal parental leave for a total of 12 months with increased benefits, and part-time work for couples based on the German model, which makes it possible to reduce working hours by 50% with 75% pay. The Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan also gives us an opportunity to expand childcare centres, freeing up energy and expertise, especially for women, who will be looking for new jobs”, says Gribaudo.
The World Economic Forum ranks Italy 63rd out of 156 countries in terms of the gender gap, and even if we narrow the focus to Europe alone, we are among the last positions. “We have a lot to learn from other countries”, Gribaudo concludes, “so I believe that comparison with other countries is useful and necessary. In Italy, I still hear the term ‘mammo’ too often as a term for a father who takes care of his children. I think we could benefit from being inspired by nations that have a more equal concept of the roles of men and women in society. However, this should not require a legislative intervention, but a real cultural revolution. Good laws can help, but they alone are not enough: we need everyone’s efforts, inside and outside Parliament, to bring them to life”.