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The law on employee holidays in Italy and other 5 countries

United Kingdom
Written by
Toffoletto de Luca Tamajo, working in employment law since 1925.
This article sets out the law in relation to annual holiday in Italy, including the circumstances in which an employer can ask an employee to curtail a holiday and the extent to which employees are required to remain available during vacation time.  

In Italy employees are entitled to a minimum holiday period of four weeks, provided for by law. On top of this, collective agreements can grant additional days of holiday. However, should specific conditions be met, employers are also entitled to ask employees to return early from holiday. According to case law, employees must grant this type of request if:

  • it reflects specific company needs; and
  • this possibility is provided for by the applicable collective agreement or by an individual agreement.

Therefore, an employee may only refuse to return early if there is no obligation to do so deriving from individual or collective agreements. However, it should be taken into consideration that most  national CBAs (NCBAs) provide for such an obligation.

Should an employee return from holiday early, he or she is entitled to receive specific treatment and/or indemnities, the details of which are provided in the collective agreements. For instance, according to the NCBA for the trade sector, an employer may recall an employee from his or her holiday for business reasons, without prejudice to the employee’s right to enjoy the remaining holiday period at a later stage. It also provides for the employee’s right to be reimbursed for the costs incurred for returning early and, if necessary, for going back to the location of his or her holiday when the requested activity concludes.

On the other hand, should an employee return early from holiday, some collective agreements also include a right for the employee to receive a travel allowance for the duration of the journey and reimbursement for expenses incurred for the period of holiday left untaken.

Another relevant topic for knowing how to manage the holiday period is an employee’s obligation to remain available during holidays. According to a decision taken by the Italian Supreme Court, an employee is only obliged to guarantee his or her availability during holidays if this is provided for by an individual agreement or the applicable collective agreement. In the absence of such specific agreements, the employee is therefore free to organise his or her holiday without considering the risk of being subjected to disciplinary measures for a lack of availability during the vacation period.

Should an employee be unable to take a holiday or rest period for any reason, he or she can request an indemnity in lieu of it, but only for the additional days of holiday recognised in the NCBAS and not for the statutory minimum days of holiday (i.e. four weeks) that he or she is entitled to take. Any accrued holiday left untaken by employees at the end of the employment relationship must be compensated when the contract is terminated. In this event, vacation days should be paid as ordinary working days, using the salary rate applicable at the at the time of termination of the relationship.

Emanuela Nespoli
Partner - Italy
Toffoletto De Luca Tamajo