An Egyptian worker at a construction site in Milan, Italy (archival photo) | Photo: ANSA/Daniel Zennaro
An Egyptian worker at a construction site in Milan, Italy (archival photo) | Photo: ANSA/Daniel Zennaro

A guide by the Italian government seeks to help migrants avoid labor exploitation. The document explains what rights foreign workers have in Italy, and where to find help if their employer is exploiting them.

What rights do foreign workers have in Italy? What does labor exploitation entail?

The Italian government released a short guide on this on their Integrazione Migranti (Integration Migrants) website last week, which also explains where migrants can find help if they think they are being exploited at their work.

The guide explains that foreign workers have the same labor rights as Italian workers: health and security on the job; equal opportunities between men and women; protection against any type of discrimination; the right to a just and adequate salary; the right to reconcile work and family life; the right to rest and to become (or not to become) a member of a union.

Foreign workers also enjoy all the rights listed in their job contract or the national or territorial collective contract concerning their job sector.

During a selection process, a potential employer is not allowed to ask questions on political and religious opinions, pregnancy or seropositivity, civil status or family status (principle of non-discrimination).

How many hours is one allowed to work?

The standard working week is 40 hours but collective labor contracts, at a national or sectorial level, are the reference; overtime work is possible but must be limited. The worker has a right to eleven consecutive hours of rest every 24 hours and a period of rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, usually on Sunday, every seven days. Annual vacations must last at least four weeks and are indispensable.

What is labor exploitation?

According to Italian legislation, labor exploitation exists when there are issues like a salary that is below national standards and unfair compared to working hours; recurrent overtime or no weekly rest, no paid annual holidays and/or no paid sick leave; the systematic violation of security and health on the job; the use of degrading methods of surveillance of the worker.

Who can a worker contact when they suspect they are being exploited?

There is a widespread network of support, information and orientation across the national territory; it is possible to contact unions, associations of category, territorial services of the municipality of residence, as well as associations offering assistance and activities in favor of foreign citizens.

Who can a worker contact with questions or in an emergency?

Workers can call the national anti-trafficking hotline: +39 800 290 290.

The toll-free phone number is active 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The operators who answer the phone are linguistic-cultural mediators who speak English, Spanish, Albanian, Romanian, Russian, Moldovan, Ukrainian, Nigerian, Chinese, Polish, Portuguese and Arabic.

Workers who are being exploitated can also seek out help at the Inter-institutional desk against the gangmaster system (Helpdesk interistituzionale Anticaporalato):

This is their Facebook, people can call them at +39 800 939 000 or contact them on WhatsApp at +393509092008.

Inter-cultural mediators and operators provide a multilingual service (English, French, Arabic, Pidgin, Edo/Benin, Wolof, Mandinka, Fula, Pular and others that can be requested) on how to legalize a job, how to access territorial services and how to enroll in programs against labor exploitation.

They can be reached from Monday to Friday between 9.30 am and 6.30 pm.


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