As is well known, with the Law Decree no. 104 of 14 August 2020 (the so-called "August Decree") the Italian government has introduced various measures finalized to support and rescue the economy, in order to countervail the effects of the pandemic on the national economic system. Some of the measures that were passed are specifically dedicated to the maritime industry, others are applicable to the generality of employment relationships and, therefore, also to the harbor industry. The following article intends to provide a quick overview on the measures, in order to permit the operators to orient themselves in the new legislation.
- Exemption from payment of social contributions cabotage: In order to mitigate the effects deriving from the recent epidemiological crisis for companies carrying out cruise and cabotage activities, 88 of the August Decree introduces - for the period between 1 August – 31 December 2020, only - an exemption from the payment of social contributions for shipowners of units or ships registered in the national registers. In particular, the exemption provided by Art. 6 of Law Decree no. 457/1997 is extended to all ships enrolled with the first register that are designated to cabotage activities (including cruises), to bunkering as well as to storage and assistance in favor of national oil platforms.
- Fund for compensation of damages suffered by the maritime transport industry: By means of 89 of the August Decree, a dedicated fund was set up at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport with an initial endowment for the year 2020 of 50 million euros. The fund shall compensate for the reduction of revenues relating to passenger transports in the period between 23 February and 31 December 2020 (in comparison with the average revenues recorded in the same period over the previous two years); thus, the provision fills the striking lack of support to the industry of maritime passenger transport, which distinguished the emergency legislation up to this present moment. The support is aimed at shipowner companies that operate with Italian-flagged ships, which were enrolled with the registers prior to 31 January 2020 and are used for the maritime passenger transport or for combined transport of passengers and goods.
- Allowance for seafarers: 10 of the August Decree introduces a specific aid in favor of seafarers (a) who involuntarily lost their job in the period between 1 January 2020 and 17 March 2020, (b) who performed their professional duties for at least thirty days in the same period of time and (c) who are not holders of another employment contract or employment relationship, or beneficiaries of the unemployment benefit "NASPI" or of payments under sickness leave or under a pension scheme. Upon request, these seafarers are entitled to an indemnity amounting to Euro 600 per month, for June and for July 2020.
- The use of security guards on board the merchant vessels flying the Italian flag: 38 of the August Decree extends the validity of the exceptional provision that allows the use of security guards to protect crews in areas at risk of piracy, although the relevant guards have not yet attended the required theoretical-practical training courses. The exceptional provision will be effective until 30 June 2021.
So far, the measures specifically dedicated to the maritime industry . Extending this quick overview also to the harbor industry, we will have to refer to the statutory provisions which - although not specifically dedicated to this industry - apply to the activities carried out within harbors.
- Exemption from the payment of social contributions for companies that do not apply to the State subsidies: 3 of the August Decree introduces an exemption from the payment of social contribution for companies which - although having previously made use of the State subsidies introduced with the so-called "Care Italy Decree" - will not avail themselves of the extension of the subsidies set forth by the August Decree. The exemption from social contributions will last for up to 4 months, which have to be used up within 31 December 2020. The scope of the exemption does not include the contributions due to the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work INAIL. It is possible to combine this exemption with other exemptions or benefits provided for under current legislation. The exemption has become operative, after the authorization of the European Commission, issued with decision C (2020) 7926 of 10 November 2020.
- Exemption from the payment of social security contributions in the event of hirings for indefinite-term agreements: Pursuant to 6 of the August Decree, the companies that - in the period between 15 August and 31 December 2020 - (a) hire employees under an indefinite-term employment agreement or (b) transform existing fixed-term employment agreements into indefinite-term agreements, benefit from an exemption from the payment of social contributions for a period of up to 6 months and for a total amount of up to Euro 4,030 (this amount has to be split up over the relevant months). Also, in this context, the scope of the exemption does not include the social contributions in favor of the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work INAIL. The exemption can be combined with other exemptions or benefits (up to the total overall social security contribution due by the employer). The statutory provision does not apply in the case of re-hiring of employees who, in the six months prior to the new hiring, were already on the relevant employer's payroll with an indefinite-term employment agreement or an apprenticeship agreement.
- Exemption from the payment of social contributions in disadvantaged areas - Exemption for Southern Italy: As dedicated support for Southern Italy, companies that in 2018 had their place of activity located in Regions (i) that had a per capita GDP lower than 75% of the EU27 average or in any event se between 75% and 90% and (ii) an employment rate lower than the national average, can benefit of an exemption from social contributions up to 30% for the period between 1 October and 31 December 2020. The exemption does not regard contributions due to the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work INAIL and can be combined with other exemptions or reductions. The rule has become operative after the authorization of the European Commission, issued with its decision C (2020) 6959 of 6 October 2020.
Besides the new opportunities provided for with the August Decree, the incentives that were already existing prior to the August Decree remain still applicable: Among those measures we can mention the structural incentive for steady youth employment (incentivo strutturale all'occupazione giovanile stabile), the incentive for hirings in Southern Italy (incentivo assunzioni nel mezzogiorno), the employment bonus for young excellence (bonus occupazionale giovani eccellenze), the incentive for hiring beneficiaries of social income (incentivo per l'assunzione di beneficiari del reddito di cittadinanza), the incentive for apprenticeships (incentivo per apprendistato), the "IO Lavoro" incentive (incentivo IO Lavoro), the incentive for victims of gender violence (incentivo per vittime di violenza di genere), the incentive for hiring workers in the social safety net (incentivo assunzioni lavoratori in CIGS) and the incentive for hiring women and over 50 (incentivo assunzioni donne ed over 50).
Further aids will be provided for in the State budget law for the financial year 2021 and the multi-year budget for the three-year period 2021-2023, which was approved by the Council of Ministers on 16 November 2020 and which is about to be promulgated.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.