Topic 4 The risks of Labour Exploitation in Italy

It is not easy to technically define what is meant by labour exploitation. In general, this occurs whenever the employer does not respect the minimum standards set by law to protect workers. This concept refers to a situation of overpowering, in which the employer exercises excessive power (physical and/or mental) over the employee by not respecting his or her rights.

In Italy, the risk of labour exploitation is still very high.

The abuses can be linked to the widespread phenomenon in Italy of undeclared work that assures the entrepreneurs to save tax money but, at the same time, reduces the legal instruments of protection for the employer in case of abuses. In relation to the victims, data confirms the tendency to exploit mainly third country nationals.

The sector in which exploitation is most relevant is agriculture (caporalato), but cases involving different production sectors are arising (i.e. leafleting activities, workers at petrol stations or car washes, logistics and transport). The number of cases relating to the industrial sector is also significant.

On the other hand, the low number of reports of exploitation made by domestic and care workers is quite alarming. The difficulty to denounce the abuse may be related to the place where the activities take place. In fact, the job is done mostly in private houses and so the inspections are almost impossible.

How to report labour exploitation in Italy?

According to Italian law, it is not always easy to determine how long it is possible to denounce the employer. In fact, it depends on the offenses committed by the employer. For example, in the case of undeclared work, it is possible to denounce within 5 years of the end of the abuse.

There are two main bodies to denounce the employer: firstly, it is possible to do so directly at the competent Labour Inspectorate or at the local offices of the Guardia di Finanza.

Undeclared work can also be reported anonymously to protect the worker.

In any case, either Labour Inspectors or military personnel are obliged to carry out inspections and relevant verifications at the company where the undeclared work has been reported without having to disclose to them the identity of the person who denounced the abuse.
Once the necessary controls have been carried out, if a breach has been established, generally the government imposes administrative sanctions on the society or on the employer.
If the abuse involves a violation of the Italian criminal code, the proceedings will take place before a judge and the victim must be assisted by a lawyer

Photo by Liliana Drew: