Benchmarking Call Summary: Italy & Spain

The Global Institute convened a 60-minute member conversation on health and benefits in Italy and Spain. The content of the call was driven by attendee interests and included the topics listed below.

June 02, 2020

Call Participants

Nine attendees from nine companies participated in the call. Companies came from various industries, including financial services, pharmaceutical and biotech, consumer products/apparel/household, motor vehicle/parts/ distribution manufacturing, retail/grocery, technology, and telecommunications

Purpose of Meeting

The Global Institute convened a 60-minute member conversation on health and benefits in Italy and Spain. The content of the call was driven by attendee interests and included the topics listed below.


Companies were interested in discussing how they’re working to support employees and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teleworking and Employee Accommodations

In Spain and Italy, most employers have all or some of their employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the employers represented on the call, most classified their return- to-work approach as either phased or slow and conservative. One employer stated telework as its biggest COVID-19 related challenge. To provide proper and adequate employee work-from-home accommodations, one employer’s IT department sent employees equipment, such as a second screen. Also, new hires are being on-boarded by equipment sent directly to their homes.

To provide opportunities for virtual social connectiveness, one employer encourages managers to hold virtual coffee chats to stay in touch with their own as well as other teams’ projects and functions. Another employer has found success by creating a team in charge of morale boosting during the pandemic. The team distributes emails weekly, which encourage employees to share activities they enjoy with their pets or children, play games or even dress up in costumes (for example, dress up as your favorite painting). These creative meetings have received a lot of positive feedback.

Also, one employer has human resources coordinating virtual town halls, where the Vice President of each country speaks to the region.

Child Care and Pay/Leave

Member companies in Spain and Italy are giving employees increased flexibility while working from home. This is especially true for primary caregivers. One employer implemented global caregiver leave, which includes 2 weeks of paid leave if the employee needs to take care of their children. Another employer also implemented additional leave in response to COVID-19, which is 10 days of paid leave as well as increased flexibility, where performance is assessed on an outcome basis. Another employer is also providing additional leave for 10 days for its employees in response to COVID-19, after discussion with the employee’s manager, who is trained to be as flexible as possible. Members are adapting to a work environment in the region in which employees are evaluated less on their time but more on performance.

Medical Coverage and COVID-19 Testing

In Italy, one employer added COVID-19 to medical coverage as an add-on however, this employer could not find that option in any other country. Italy does provide coverage for any testing or treatment related to COVID-19, but the add-on insurance helps with additional medical coverage that may be needed in hospital. Spain’s government offers COVID-19 coverage if there is a hospitalization.

One employer provided telemedicine for employees with non-COVID-19 related symptoms and issues since they did not want employees to worry about leaving their homes. This employer saw high utilization specifically in Madrid and Barcelona. Another employer is utilizing virtual services in Spain and finding high utilization for non-COVID-19 symptoms. This employer is running its regional operations at 25%-30% capacity, with safety measures in place. This employer is also exploring testing but is finding that there is a shortage of available tests.

As one employer looks to return to work, with a target date in the fall, global real estate, facilities, safety and human resources will be involved in the decision-making. To keep employees abreast of updates and changes, local and regional leaders are doing video updates as well as regularly updating a FAQ document on their intranet page. Another employer uses a global benefits platform – made up of panels – in which one of the panels is saved for COVID-19 updates (especially concerning benefits).


Employers in Spain and Italy stated that currently, their biggest well-being challenge is global strategy alignment coupled with the impact of COVID-19. Members noted that they were experiencing a common challenge: the need to deliver well-being strategies virtually, instead of in-person and on-site, as was done pre-COVID-19.

Examples of how members have made this transition include:

  • Nutrition webinars about eating healthy foods when working from home;
  • Exercise classes by zoom; and
  • A voluntary session (each Friday), where new information is distributed along with a gentle reminder of the resources that are available

Another challenge two members discussed was the use of paper vouchers for meal benefits in Italy. To avoid contact, one member created a digital card for employees. Generally, members found that in Italy and Spain, not many well-being offerings are provided in a digital format.

Benefit Offerings

In Italy, there is a difference in benefits between dirargenti and non-dirargenti classes for medical and retirement benefits; dirargenti classes receive the best of both mandated medical coverage complemented with additional coverage. Non-dirargenti employees have a choice (mandated or employer option), while managers receive a little more coverage. There have not been specific changes in classes due to COVID-19, but one employer did introduce specific COVID-19 insurance in Italy and is looking to expand to other countries.

Mental Health

Mental health is a high priority for employers in Spain and Italy. It has become a more important issue largely due to quarantine measures that both countries have put in place in response to the pandemic.

Employers have taken a variety of approaches and strategies to provide employees with support, including:

  • Offering mental well-being coverage as part of the medical plan;
  • Utilizing of vendors, such as LiveBetter and meQuilibrium, and;
  • Considering adding burnout as part of the disability plan coverage

Many members are utilizing their EAPS for customized sessions on topics such as time management, leadership during COVID-19, employee emotions, financial well-being, working from home with children, teaching, climatizing to working from home, and more. Additionally, one member is using a multichannel communication strategy to promote a toolkit, produced by its EAP, specific to COVID-19.

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