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Pregnancy and prohibition of dismissal: state the law.

Published in: Employment law
by Antonella Marmo
Home > Pregnancy and prohibition of dismissal: state the law.

In the context of employment law, Italian Legislative Decree No. 151/2001 represents a pillar in the protection of working mothers, outlining a legal framework that prohibits dismissal during the so-called “protected period”. This article explores the key provisions, exceptions and legal consequences associated with maternity.

The prohibition of dismissal during the "protected period"

Italian legislative decree no. 151/2001, better known as the “Testo Unico in materia di Tutela e Supporto della Maternità e della Paternità“, clearly states that it is forbidden to dismiss female workers from the start of pregnancy until the child is one year old. This period is considered inviolable, and any attempt to dismiss during this period is automatically unlawful.

The protection also extends to other situations, such as:

  • the adoption of a child (within one year of entry into the family),
  • abortion after the 180th day of pregnancy, and
  • the request for parental leave for the child’s illness.

An interesting aspect of the legislation is that the prohibition of dismissal applies even if the employer was unaware of the employee’s pregnancy.

In this case, the employee may submit a certification attesting to her pregnancy at the time of dismissal, thus rendering the employer’s decision unlawful.

What are the consequences in the event of wrongful dismissal?

If a mother is dismissed during the protected period, the law provides for severe consequences for the company. The dismissal is automatically null and void, and the employee has the right to be reinstated in her job, thus being a fundamental principle to protect maternity in the work environment.

On top of that, the company is required to pay all wages and contributions from the moment of dismissal until the employee’s return to the company, thus ensuring economic protection for the employee during the period of forced absence.

If the employee decides not to return to the company, for personal or professional reasons, she can request an indemnity in lieu of reinstatement, along with all wages accrued in the meantime. This option offers an alternative to physical reinstatement in the workplace, while still providing significant economic support to the worker at a critical stage of her personal and professional life.

Exceptions to the prohibition of dismissal for working mothers

Despite the prohibition of dismissal, there are some exceptions provided for by law. Pregnant or recently mothers may be dismissed in cases of gross misconduct, such as improper behaviour or, for example, theft of company property.

Other situations allowing dismissal include the actual closure of the company and the expiry of the term in fixed-term contracts.

The Italian legislation essentially protects working mothers during a crucial period of their lives by providing them with fundamental employment certainty. Nevertheless, it is important that both the company and the women workers themselves are aware of these rights and duties to ensure mutual respect of the laws in force.

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Publication date: 10 February 2024

Antonella Marmo

A Lawyer at the Canella Camaiora Law Firm, a member of the Milan Bar, she focuses on Commercial and Employment Law.
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