Health insurance contributions

The case concerns certain health insurance contributions levied at a rate of 2.22% on the salaries of blue collar workers. Acea argues that the obligation of INPS to pay certain sickness benefits, which is the reason underlying the employer’s obligation to pay the contribution involved in this dispute, is expressly excluded by art. 6, paragraph 2 of Law no. 138 of 11 January 1943 in cases where the payment of this benefit is assured by law or by collective labour agreements by the employer or other bodies, to an extent either equal to or greater than what is established by collective labour agreements.

However, INPS started to request payment of the contribution from the entry into force of Law no. 41 of 28 February 1986 (1986 Finance Act), which reformed the health and social welfare contribution system, reducing the rate for the sickness benefit, abolishing the additional rate of the old sickness contribution, establishing the contribution for the National Health Service and the welfare contribution.

This initiative led to a great deal of legal activity involving the companies which considered the contribution undue, with favourable and unfavourable outcomes to said proceedings.

By means of Supreme Court (joint session) ruling no. 10232 of 27 June 2003, promoted by INPS, the principle diametrically opposed to the one provided for by law was sanctioned, making the contribution due from companies of a solidaristic rather than welfare nature.

However, companies are still awaiting legislation which would fully regulate the previous one, realised with the issue of law no. 133 of 6 August 2008, converting Law Decree 112/2008.

The law definitively provided an authentic interpretation of the second paragraph of article 6 of law no. 138 dated 11 January 1943, establishing that employers are not obliged to pay health insurance contributions in cases where they have, by law or under the provisions of a collective labour agreement, paid sick pay, thus amending previous periods and providing for the payment obligation to take effect from 1 January 2009.

Therefore, ACEA Group companies started to pay health insurance contributions from January 2009; the provision set aside relates to the period running from the date of the change to collective agreement regulations to the date law no. 133 of 2008 was issued.

In fact, the new contracts for electricity sector personnel of August 2006 and for gas-water personnel of April 2007 regulated the sickness benefit paid by companies as a supplement to indemnities paid by the insurers (INPS) to the provider and paid, by said companies, at the normal salary payment dates.

 

Unemployment and mobility contributions

This is the contribution companies have to pay due to INPS, to finance the income support fund for workers that have become unemployed; it is decidedly insurance-related in nature, for which only the previously insured provider has the right to performance.

The obligation exists toward all employees in general, with some exceptions, e.g. for those who benefit from the guarantee of job security (art. 40 no. 2 of Royal Decree no. 1827/35) given they are employees of public administrations, public companies or exercise public services where the element of stability is based on norms regulating the legal status and remuneration of personnel or ensured, upon request, by a provision from the Ministry of Labour.

Despite altering the legal and economic nature of the company since 1999, the requirement of job stability was however met by the collective labour agreement applied to personnel, which for companies operating in both the electricity and water services segments consisted of the national collective labour agreement of 9/7/1996 for employees working in local electricity companies. 

Stipulation of the sole agreement of the electricity sector in July 2001, and the subsequent succession and interpretation agreement of April 2002 and the agreement of contractual migration from electricity to water, in July 2001 too, led to periods without job stability before the companies adopted regulations aimed at restoring the requirement of employment stability.

Favourable first and second instance rulings were appealed by INPS.