As of Oct. 15, Italy not only has mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 for all those working in certain fields—a requirement already in place—but a new universal, mandatory use of the COVID-19 Green Pass in all remaining industries. Italy’s Green Pass—a domestic COVID-19 passport that indicates if someone is fully vaccinated or has recently tested negative for the virus—now is required for any employees who work onsite.
Companies that have employees in Italy need to familiarize themselves with these rules, because these provisions require employers to adopt several organizational measures. Breach of the law exposes companies and managers to the risk of sanctions.
Gradual Legislative Process
Rather than being enacted with one single law or regulation, the Green Pass has been the result of several acts passed during recent months. The government did so partly to assess the impact of its measures on the evolution of the pandemic and partly to gain political support for the more incisive legislative initiatives that it gradually implemented. In Italy, as in many countries, part of the population has reservations of various types about vaccination.
Has this gradual process reached its final stage? It is impossible to say. Many have advocated for the outright enactment of a general and mandatory vaccination campaign. While government officials have not ruled this out, they explained that such a measure would be taken only if the laws that have already been passed prove insufficient to control the spread of the virus.
Consider the existing legislative measures more closely.
The law requiring vaccination against COVID-19 applies only to limited categories of workers, substantially consisting of two groups.
The first group includes all those who perform health care jobs. This would include physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, but also obstetrics, medical radiology health technicians, orthopedic technicians, audiology technicians, cardiovascular physiopathology and perfusion technicians, dental hygienists, dietitians, and biomedical laboratory health technicians. The obligation applies regardless of the autonomous or employed status of those active in health care.
The second group includes all those who perform their activities in long-term-care facilities, senior living homes, nursing homes, care homes, rest homes, convalescent homes and similar facilities. In this case, the obligation to get vaccinated is not connected with the type of job but based on the place where the employees perform their work activities. Therefore, the scope of application is broader and less defined. This makes checks and enforcement of the law more difficult. For the time being, the managers of these covered facilities, as well as the employers of those who work there, have the obligation to ensure checks be performed, but more guidance from regulators is expected.
COVID-19 Green Pass Needed to Access Workplaces
The mandatory vaccination requirement for the two above-mentioned groups of professionals has been in place for some time now. As of Oct. 15, all individuals who perform their activities within a workplace need to have a valid COVID-19 Green Pass. Such obligation not only applies to all employees gathering in one place to work—for instance, the employees in an office—but also all those who access the same workplace to perform their activities, such as consultants and advisors, cleaners, and maintenance engineers.
A Green Pass is a certificate that an individual meets at least one of the following requirements:
- Vaccination against COVID-19, which enables an individual to have a valid Green Pass for 12 months.
- Recent negative testing against COVID-19. This Green Pass is valid for 48 or 72 hours, depending on the type of test.
- Certified recovery from COVID-19 within the past six months.
The Green Pass can be printed on paper, but most people use a virtual file stored on a smart phone. The Green Pass consists of a QR code bearing the essential information that can be read by using a specific app (the “VerificaC19” app) released by the Ministry of Health.
Employers are obligated to organize a system to comply with the law, including the designation and instruction of the individuals who verify that those attending the workplace have a valid Green Pass.
Also, the employers of staff members who access other companies’ workplaces need to check that their employees have a valid Green Pass.
Employees who do not have a valid Green Pass may not access a workplace, and the law provides they should be deemed absent from their job without a valid reason, and therefore without pay, until they obtain a valid Green Pass.
All the measures outlined above come with sanctions for those who infringe.
Anticipated End of the Emergency
The described obligations—vaccination or a Green Pass—are valid until Dec. 31. The limited period of validity is based on a desire not to unduly extend extraordinary limitations that affect millions of people, and the fact that the measures themselves are strictly connected with the state of emergency declared by the government in connection with the pandemic.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has lasted longer than anyone anticipated and, as a consequence, the state of emergency has been extended a number of times already. The Dec. 31 deadline might therefore be further postponed if the pandemic continues into 2022.
Uberto Percivalle, a long-time SHRM member, is an attorney with Baker McKenzie in Milan. He can be reached at email@example.com.