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Best Practice 15 February Feb 2021 0815 15 February 2021

Leave, vouchers and blood tests: generous company welfare measures rewarded by Lombardy Region

From free psychological counselling to making meeting rooms available for staff's children: many companies have implemented extraordinary measures for their staff during the Covid pandemic. Companies' efforts are being recognised with the "Parità virtuosa" ["Virtuous equality"] award

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"Flexible working, employee support systems and parental leave are subjects which have assumed urgent relevance during this period of Covid." This is how Letizia Caccavale, President of the Council for Equal Opportunities of the Lombardy Region, describes what the "Parità virtuosa" ["Virtuous equality"] award is about. It is given by the Lombardy Region in recognition of the creative and sustainable work-life balance initiatives adopted in Lombardy during the Covid-19 pandemic, to organisations which have distinguished themselves the most in terms of the welfare measures put in place to support their staff during this health emergency.

Lockdown and uncertainty caused by the pandemic have, in fact, presented – and still do – a significant economic and management challenge for individuals and businesses. This is particularly true in the case of women, who have had to pay the biggest price for the crisis, assuming the burden of taking care of the family and, in many cases, even having to give up work. According to data from Italy's National Labour Inspectorate, 37,600 women in Italy have, in fact, had to resign from their jobs in the last year, including 7,500 in Lombardy alone.

"Yet, in the midst of these difficult and uncertain times, there are many companies and individuals in Lombardy who are showing that they are a step ahead of the institutions in terms of innovation, flexibility and enhancement of equal opportunities," says Letizia Caccavale. "With this award we want to highlight their commitment, both because it generates debate and new ideas and because we know that the strength of companies lies in their people and that the task of achieving a work-life balance is a path that is made together: involving men and women, companies and institutions."

According to data from Italy's National Labour Inspectorate, 37,600 women in Italy have had to resign from their jobs in the last year, including 7,500 in Lombardy alone.

The following eight organisations have received the award in 2020: 3P Solution Srl - MA Provider, Ipsen Spa, Npi Italia Srl, Sas Institute Srl, Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard, Lo Scrigno Onlus and ManagerItalia. This is a mix of companies and associations which have implemented packages offering solutions to support employees, ranging from free psychological counselling to payment vouchers for babysitters and carers and the payment of Wi-Fi charges, to providing printers and cartridges for working from home, to the opening of meeting rooms for staff's children to take exams and oral tests, up to 15 additional days of paid leave to assist family members suffering from Covid, and free blood tests.

For example, at Npi Italia srl in Monza, which produces hoses, the actions taken have included flexible working hours, remote meetings, 100% smart working for anyone whose job is compatible with this method of working, assistance and advice to parents on legal opportunities beneficial to them, as well as apps enabling all employees to communicate quickly with each other, as described by company owner Laura Parigi.

The task of achieving a work-life balance is a path that is made together: involving men and women, companies and institutions.

Letizia Caccavale, President of the Council for Equal Opportunities of the Lombardy Region

On the other hand, among the associations involved, the Women Managers Group has implemented a policy supporting future parents at work, in particular through online midwife consultations. "The involvement of someone like the midwife, whose role is traditionally focused on events before the baby is born, has allowed us to be there for new families with practical advice in support of the new parents who have suddenly found themselves in lockdown at home with a new baby, without the chance to ask for advice and get help. The use of technology has also allowed us to overcome the traditional territorial limits and to keep in touch with all parents in the Lombardy Region. The broad participation has confirmed to us how important the services are that Manageritalia Lombardy has come up with as part of its policy supporting future parents, which continues to grow and allows us to work together in a practical way with enlightened companies, thereby demonstrating that parenting can become an important corporate asset," explained Luisa Quarta, head of the Women Managers Group.

Moreover, Manageritalia has carried out important work on the gender pay gap issue, which has resulted in a bill being tabled, currently being examined by the Employment Committee of the Italian Parliament's Chamber of Deputies. Yet a further sign that companies and the non-profit sector can beat the path of change not only internally, but also across the whole country.

"In this difficult and exhausting time caused by the pandemic, we can seize an opportunity by creating a new, practical culture of work-life balance. For example, we can support measures such as the single universal allowance. We know that providing care is mainly the responsibility of women and that many female workers have been forced to sacrifice their jobs in recent months. Covid is likely to have an adverse impact on women's employment. There is an urgent need to come up with a new and more effective concept for family welfare," concluded Letizia Caccavale.

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