Over the last years, the relevance of human capital disclosure has been widely recognized by academics, regulators and professional standards setters. In 2003, the EU issued Directive 2003/51/EC, which required companies to provide in their management discussion and analysis statement information relating to human capital. In Italy, the Accounts Modernisation Directive was implemented through Legislative Decree 32/2007, which became effective for reports for the financial years beginning on or after April 12th, 2007. In March 2009, the Italian professional standards setter issued a more explicit guidance on the type of human capital information a firm could discuss in its management discussion and analysis. This study examines the disclosure on human capital provided by a sample of Italian listed public utilities in their management discussion and analysis in 2008 and 2009. The aim of the study is to determine the amount and the content of human capital disclosure released by Italian listed public utilities after the issuing of the new rule. This is an explorative study conducted through a qualitative approach and the use of multiple case study methodology. The sample is composed of 7 Italian public utilities selected using a random procedure. To collect data on human capital disclosure it has been used content analysis, that is the research method most utilized in intellectual capital disclosure studies. The items of human capital information have been identified using the new legal requirements and the guidance issued by the Italian professional standards setter. The results are consistent with prior studies on intellectual capital disclosure showing that the amount of human capital information provided is very small. However, the findings show a slight improvement in the amount of human capital disclosures released during the years. With respect to the content, companies mainly released information on the number of employees, the investments in human capital and the description of the program of training. This paper contributes to the intellectual capital literature in two ways: first, it shows the human capital disclosure practices of Italian public utilities after the issuing of a new rule, rather than analyze the information voluntarily provided, and compares these findings with previous studies; moreover, it identifies the items of human capital information on the basis of the new requirements, rather than use the models developed in the intellectual capital literature, suggesting a framework that could be used in future researches conducted on companies listed in other European Union member states.
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