HR Innovation Forum (21 March 2024, Bologna)

20 March 2024

On 21 March 2024, HR capital participated in the ninth edition of the HR INNOVATION FORUM, the first exhibition in Italy of the main Product and Process Innovations for Talent Management.

A full day of in-depth analysis of the most important trends in the sector entirely dedicated to managers and HR professionals.

Many topics were addressed, including welfare, a theme explored by Andrea Di Nino in the article written for the forum, entitled: “Remote working and welfare: useful tools for well-being at work – handle with care”.

The historical events of recent years, starting with the pandemic, have greatly influenced the employment market. During the ‘great resignation’, the difficulties for companies in finding and retaining talent has gradually led HR operators to rethink the concept of work and remuneration, focusing in particular on the impact of work on private life, the work-life balance. Among the tools most widely used to improve the corporate climate and well-being at work, remote working and corporate welfare plans stand out.  

Remote working, regulated under the Italian legal system by Italian Law no. 81/2017, has been widely used since the pandemic. It allows the organisation, planning and localisation of work in a ‘hybrid’ mode, i.e. alternating the presence in the office with remote performance by the worker.

The potential to work remotely is also increasingly a subject of negotiation in the recruitment of talent: in addition to the financial and contractual conditions of employment, in fact, more and more companies are offering remote working as an attractive benefit.

In any event, to permit remote working it is necessary to consider multiple obligations, provided for by the aforementioned legislation and relating to the regulation of the remote employment relationship itself, health and safety at work and the obligations to provide employment details to the authorities. The regime under which some derogations deriving from the COVID emergency legislation have been continually extended has not helped to give certainty to employers.

Correctly navigating these obligations is a challenge for many companies, which do not always possess the necessary tools, just as the approach to the topic of remote working is not always easy from a cultural point of view. Mistakenly, for example, remote working is often used interchangeably with ‘working from home’ or ‘teleworking’, whereas it differs from teleworking through the flexible alternation between working from the company’s premises and working remotely – not necessarily understood as the employee’s ‘home’.

An important and additional tool used by companies to improve the corporate climate, as well as attract and retain talent is the planning of a corporate welfare system.

Implementing a corporate welfare plan consists of ensuring the disbursement of a certain amount of remuneration in kind, in the form of goods and services, to its employees and, where permitted, their family members. The tax rules in force provide that – under certain conditions – the goods and services covered by corporate welfare can be exempt from taxes and contributions (both for the beneficiary workers and for the employer), even up to total exemption.

However, the attractiveness of this tool is partially undermined by factors such as the ‘hidden’ costs related to it (e.g. expert advice, the fees charged by platforms, etc.), the lack of interest on the part of staff or managers, trade union opposition and, above all, the objective complexity of the regulatory framework. Consequently, this tool is difficult to access, in particular, for micro and small enterprises, which make up the majority of the Italian entrepreneurial sector.

With regard to regulation, it should be noted that welfare can give rise to undesirable and unforeseen tax effects: for example, if fringe benefits exceed the tax exemption limit by even a single Euro, the entire value of the fringe benefits received by the employee in the year become taxable. The continuous changes and differentiations that the legislator has made in recent years to the exemption limit have not helped to clarify it, discouraging its use. For 2024, the limits have been set at EUR 1,000 for all workers, raised to EUR 2,000 for those with children who are dependent for tax purposes, but the measure lacks permanence as it is valid only for the current year.

Remote working and welfare plans, ultimately, are valid means to implement concrete policies based on well-being in the company; much could still be done, however, with respect to the cultural and regulatory approach to these tools.

Here is the link with all the information about the event.

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