For natural disasters or exceptional events, contribution suspensions are envisaged, always arranged with appropriate regulatory measures such as orders from the Presidency of the Council of Ministers – Department of Civil Protection. Such measures always result from a state of emergency in the areas concerned, which is declared with a Council of Ministers' Presidential Decree.
The contribution suspensions were introduced with the aim of bringing those individuals affected by the disaster back to normality and are only applicable to those contributory requirements relating to activities carried out in damaged zones. Access to the benefit is subject to meeting the two requirements: subjective (existence on the date of the event) and objective (causal link between damage suffered and the disaster).
The following are not entitled to the aid:
- individuals whose work began following the date of the disaster, even if they work in the damaged zones and their activity began in the contribution suspension validity period;
- individuals already operational on the date of the disaster, but who had not registered and paid the contribution in a timely manner, in accordance with the regulations in force;
- all taxpayers registered after the disaster following a worker’s statement or an inspection report;
- companies not operating in damaged areas, even though the owner is resident in those areas or only the registered office without any operations is located there – the expression “registered and/or operational office”, which is used in the suspension measures, indicates that the suspension of contribution payment is due solely with reference to the operating unit located in the area affected by the disasters, regardless of whether or not the employer’s registered office is located in that area.
Private companies with dependent workers, clients of collaborations and participating associates can only take advantage of social security benefits for workers who are employed at the date of the disaster in offices located in the damaged areas. The companies thus identified shall only benefit from the suspension of contributions for damaged sites, even if they have centralised contributions at another location that was not affected by the disaster.
In the event of the transfer, division, merger or incorporation of a company, the benefit may be transferred if it is stated in the instrument of transfer, division, merger or incorporation that the new company assumes responsibility for all the debts and contribution credits of the old company. The transfer of the benefit takes place regardless of whether or not the workers have had their employment relationships terminated and been paid the TFR (severance indemnity). Conversely, if this condition is not set out in the deed, the ceasing company must repay the entire debt in a lump sum at the time of notification of termination.
In some cases the disaster may not concern a specific geographic area, but an economic activity (bird flu and BSE, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, better known as “mad cow disease”). In this case, of course, only those operating in the damaged economic sector will be able to access the facilities.
For self-employed workers (artisans, traders, freelance professionals), the business’ location is relevant.
Private employers and self-employed workers who may benefit from the suspension may not, however, extend the benefit to employment relationships (employee, collaboration, association, etc.) established after the disaster.
However, in compliance with the above requirements for access to the benefit, all contributions with a legal maturity within the time period identified by the rules may be suspended regardless of the period of activity to which they refer.
Law no. 290 of 06 December 2006 provided a true and retroactive interpretation of Law no. 225 of 24 February 1992 on power of order of the Civil Protection, excluding the following subjects from the possible beneficiaries:
- all civil servants;
- individual workers (dependent workers, collaborators, associates) in cases where the company cannot or does not wish to take advantage of the suspension, since the law does not recognise them as having an independent right to suspension;
- all civil servants;
- domestic employers;
- voluntary prosecutors (non-compulsory contribution).
With INPS Circulars no. 65 of 23 March 2007 and no. 91 of 14 October 2008, instructions have been given for the recovery of contributions which, since 1992, have been unduly suspended as a result of the new provisions.
The procedural instructions on the management of suspensions of contributions for natural disasters were dictated by INPS circular no. 106 of 04 December 2008.
The following are the calamitous events that call for the suspension of contributions:
- flood in Modena (2014);
- earthquake in Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto (2012);
- humanitarian emergency in Lampedusa (2011);
- bad weather in Tuscany (2009);
- earthquake in Abruzzo (2009);
- flood in Messina (2009);
- Viareggio train derailment (2009);
- floods in Molise, Abruzzo and Puglia (2003);
- flood in Veneto (2014).