Overview of policies, strategies and programmes in relation to the occupational health and safety of older workers - Denmark

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In 2011, the National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NRCWE) published a descriptive analysis about retirement in Denmark. The respondents were 50-59 years when they answered the questionnaire. The main conclusions were: 1) Occupational groups: People with a high educational level and people with their own company were planning a later retirement than others. Physically hard work and low educational level increased the incidence of early retirement. 2) Age: Two-thirds of 50-59 year-old working people were planning to retire before they would reach the retirement age. 3) Gender: Women were planning to retire before men[1].

Also in 2011, The Danish National Centre for Social Research produced a report on “55-70-year-olds remaining in the labour market”. The report is a study of 55-70-year-olds’ behaviour, expectations, agreements and knowledge about rules/laws regarding being in the labour market after they have turned 60[2]. The aim of the study was to find out which motivating factors and barriers exist in Denmark to retain older employees in the labour market. The results were primarily based on telephone interviews with 5,140 still not fully retired persons in the age category 55-70 years. Some of the results and conclusions include:

  • 55% of the 55-59-year-olds expected to continue working when they turned 60. 40% expected to continue working when they turned 62. 15% expected to be in work after they turn 65.
  • Reasons to choose a voluntary early retirement include: family/leisure time (33%), reasons linked to the labour market and the workplace (25%), poor health (17%).
  • More people stay longer in the labour market if they can stay in their current workplace and if management shows a willingness to keep them. Having the possibility to adapt their working conditions, to have a certain freedom in their work organisation and to be able to develop their skills enhances people’s choice to stay at work longer.
  • More people retire early if management is showing that they expect the employee to leave early. The choice to retire early is also enhanced by poor health, physical difficulties in performing the job or difficulties in staying up-to-date in the working field.
  • A focused effort from the workplace/employer may positively influence the older worker’s decision to stay at work. If the older worker is offered flexibility and the workplace is inclusive, it may allow the worker to combine better working life with family and leisure time.

These studies show the importance of encouraging the implementation of good/adapted working conditions for senior workers in order to retain them at work.

The following article provides an overview of the various policies, programmes and initiatives put in place by governmental and non-governmental organisations in Denmark to address the issue of work sustainability and healthier working lives.

Initiatives from government/ government-affiliated organisations

National level

Occupational health and safety

The Strategy for the Improvement of the Working Environment up to 2020, of the Ministry of Employment[3], contains a number of goals and priorities for the working environment supported by 19 *risk-based supervision/inspections;

  • focus on psychosocial working environment;
  • dialogue about health promotion;
  • focus on young and new employees; and
  • help to SMEs.

There is no specific goal or initiative focusing on older workers. Initiative 11 focusses on health promotion. The Danish Working Environment Authority should, in connection with the risk-based inspections, provide advice and guidance about health promotion. The dialogue with the companies will be about how the companies can create the best conditions for the employees to make healthy choices and about how health promotion and working environment can be combined, e.g. to prevent MSDs.

The OSH Strategy of the Danish Working Environment Authority[4] should contribute to the OSH Strategy of the Ministry of Employment (above). The main focus of the Danish approach to OSH is to put in place a good prevention system and measures to prevent risks to all workers. Therefore, the OSH Strategy of the Danish Working Environment Authority does not have specific goals or initiatives focusing on older workers. The strategy has a goal of reduction of exposure to “lifting” and “poor working positions” in the following industries: construction, metal and machinery, residential care and home care. In the same industries, another goal is to reduce the number of declared occupational accidents due to acute physical overloads.

The Strategy for research and development related to working environment, of the Working Environment Research Fund[5], contains the following formulation: “Issues related to young and new employees, gender differences, ethnic background, age, and exposed and vulnerable groups are all relevant to the research themes”. In 2012-2013 the fund focussed on four themes: 1) Occupational accidents 2) Psychological working environment. 3) MSD and 4) Instruments for the working environment. In connection with MSDs, the fund says that there is a need for more resesarch on the prevention of MSD, how to recover effectively, how to retain employees with early MSD and on interventions and tools directed towards MSD.

Employment

Retaining older people at work

As mentioned in Section 1.3, one of the main aims of the 2006 Welfare Reform was to promote later retirement as an answer to the demographic challenge. This was later reinforced through the “Agreement on later retirement” (2011). As part of this move to retain older workers in the labour market, both “carrot” and “stick” policies were adopted. For instance, the previous right to prolonged unemployment benefits for people aged 55 years and over was abolished for those born in 1953 or later. Instead, they are now entitled to a “senior job” proposed by their municipality (see Section 1.3).

In 2006-2007, the Ministry of Employment carried out an awareness-raising campaign entitled “A few extra years make a difference”[6]. The campaign’s aim was to get companies, senior employees and organisations to think about senior policies and senior agreements as an alternative to early retirement. For this purpose, a number of brochures were published on a number of related topics:

  • The benefits of companies of having senior agreements and includes examples on senior policies practice in 10 different public and private companies.
  • The benefits for employees of having a senior agreement with their employer and includes interviews with four employees from different companies.
  • employment discrimination because of age.
  • Advice about how companies can retain and attract senior employees.
  • Particular opportunities in municipalities.

From 2007 onwards, unemployed persons aged 58 and 59 could no longer be exempt from general activation measures, which are otherwise mandatory for all unemployed people. This was part of an effort to increase the participation of older people in the labour market and increase the effective age of retirement. In 2008, a temporary tax credit arrangement was proposed for persons who would turn 64 between 2010-2016 and would stay at work. The aim of the tax credit is to increase employment among seniors by giving individuals greater financial incentive to work longer[7].

Following the 2006 Welfare Reform and the Ministry’s initiative for maintaining older people at work, a number of governmental organisations have put in place programmes and activities to encourage companies to set up senior policies and retain their older workforce at work:

  • The Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment developed in 2004 (when it was still called the Agency for Labour Retention and International Recruitment) a website, www.seniorpraksis.dk, presenting information and advice about senior policies at the company level which has continuously been updated throughout the years.
  • The Fund for Better Working Environment and Labour Retention has launched a series of “packages” to improve the working environment in Danish companies. One of these, the Senior Package, focuses specifically on older workers. The Senior Starter Kit was launched in June 2013[8]. The primary focus is to raise the retirement age by influencing companies to retain senior workers for a longer time. The initiative is to provide Senior Packages for small and medium-sized companies requiring extra effort to solve the retention challenge. The Senior Packages will contain step-by-step tools which describe how management and the senior employee in collaboration can determine what is needed to keep the employee at work. With the Senior Package the enterprises receive help to focus on the senior employees' work environment, health, skills and competencies. The enterprise will also receive help to take account of the senior staff's specific requirements and wishes regarding organisation of the work. The Danish Government has allocated about 17,4 million EUR for the Senior Packages. To ensure a successful implementation of the Senior Packages within companies, it is important that the trade unions, social partners and other stakeholders take an active part in the Senior Packages.
  • In the period 2005 – 2010, the Labour Market Board launched a consultancy scheme where a company can receive five free hours of consultancy assistance on motivating employees to continue working longer[9]. Ten consulting firms with a thorough knowledge of relevant and tested methods have developed a senior policy and can be contacted by every company for five hours of free consultancy services on senior policy. Their counselling is based on information from the webpage: www.seniorpraksis.dk and focuses on the following four main topics: 1) What benefit can a senior policy give a company? 2) Strengthen an existing senior policy. 3) Define goals. 4) How a senior interview could be conducted. This scheme has not been operating for the past five years. In March 2011, the Labour Market Board initiated a research project to investigate the following three areas in relation to the retention of senior employees: 1) Needs of retention. 2) Senior policy. 3) Knowledge about the homepage www.seniorpraksis.dk. The last section of the report provides advice and tools for senior policy made on the basis of the investigation.
  • Between 2010 and 2012, a total of DKK 12 million (about EUR 1.6 million) was given by the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment (at the time the Agency for Labour Retention and International Recruitment) to various projects aimed at increasing job security for older workers. The projects are all aimed at influencing the maintenance of older workers in Danish companies by giving advice about senior policies at the company level. All the projects are primarily locally-based senior retention projects. The target group is employed seniors over 50 years and all types and sizes of businesses[10].
  • A toolbox entitled “Socialtengagement.dk” (Social Commitment) has been created with the support of the Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment. It is now hosted on the website of CABI, an information centre focused on an inclusive labour market[11]. The toolbox helps companies to be socially engaged, that is, to work on recruitment, wellbeing and retention of vulnerable workers, including older workers. A section of the web-based toolbox, called “Seniors”, is dedicated to older workers. Under this topic, ideas are provided on how companies can retain their older workers, and the benefits of doing so are highlighted (keeping knowledge, avoiding early deterioration of employees’ health, etc.)
  • In 2008, the Employment Agency and the Joint Committee of the Central Organisations have developed a booklet to inform about some of the agreements made between the government, the public employers and some of the social partners on retention of older workers. The booklet focuses on senior bonus (who, when, and how) and senior conversations (when and how)[12]. Senior bonus is a bonus employees are entitled to when they reach a specific age. A senior conversation is a conversation between the senior and the employer/leader where they talk about senior issues, e.g. career paths, working time, working conditions, training, etc. The agreement was limited in time and was effective from 2009 – 2011.

Unretirement

The Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social affairs and the Ministry of Employment, supported by Deloitte Consulting, have produced a report in January 2012 on unretirement entitled “Back to work – Experience with retirees and early retirees who work”[13]. The report brings together a number of good examples of retirees and early retirees who have returned to the labour market. It provides good practices from companies with experience in hiring older people. It examines efforts by local authorities to get persons over 60 years old back to work. It also describes a number of recruitment agencies that help older people get a job. The report shows that retirees and early retirees can contribute positively to the workplace, and that many retirees and early retirees want to work. Thus there is unused potential. But the workplaces are not aware of older people as a resource, and there seems to be a gap between supply and demand of older workers.

Regional/local level

The Greve Kommune (municipality of Greve), supported by Firma Plus (a private company, consultancy), has put in place a policy for “55+ retention and development”[14]. The aim is to retain as many as possible of the 870 employees and leaders in the municipality of Greve who are in the target group 55+. The success criterion is that at least 30 % of the 50 employees and leaders participating in the project stay at least two more years in the workplace than they had planned before the project. The activities include, among others: Information meetings (leaders and employees); A course in senior policy and agreements (leaders); Mentor training (leaders and employees). Although none of the activities has a direct focus on working conditions, working conditions would be considered if they are a factor in an employee’s leaving decision. The results show that it is possible to retain 30 % of the participants for one or two more years than they had planned.

In 2006, the Municipality of Hillerød developed a senior policy to retain its senior workers[15]. It was important for the municipality that such policy does not lead to excessive cost. Some of the actions undertaken to retain older workers include: reduced working time, job rotation or job swapping to less demanding or more interesting tasks. It should be a broad/comprehensive senior policy with deals for all employee groups.

Initiatives from social partners

In 2009, The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) prepared a strategy for occupational health and safety[16]. In this strategy they mention some principles for the OSH system in companies. It includes a section about workplace health promotion. LO thinks that workplaces should focus on health promotion and that management together with employees should decide how to work with workplace health promotion.

Already in 2005, the LO Aarhus had developed a booklet to encourage union representatives to participate actively to the development of a senior policy at their workplaces[17]. The topics of the booklet include: 1. What can a senior policy include? 2. Arguments for a senior policy. 3. How can you use the trade union? 4. What can you do as a union representative? 5. Where do you start? 6. Senior conversations. 7. Senior courses. 8. Senior agreement. 9. Checklist about senior plans. 10. Checklist about who can do what. Although the booklet is not directly about occupational health and safety, sound senior policies also mean good working conditions for older employees.

The Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) does not seem to have a work programme or common strategy on occupational health and safety.

Initiatives from non-governmental organisations

A partnership between the MidtjyllandRegion, the Århus Kommune, LO-Århus, DetMidtjyskenetværk, DGI Østjylland and FrivilligCenterÅrhus has produced a booklet entitled “Planning your future. What do you want to happen in your life when you are not going to work 37 hours a week anymore?”[18] which is aimed at facilitating the transition between employment and retirement and targets soon-to-be retirees. It has been developed in connection with the Seniorstyrken (=Senior Strength) programme, which is a supervisory programme for seniors. The booklet includes topics like: What can I do?; How do I plan my future?; Tools to use when planning the future, including senior policy and senior conversations; Senior agreements; Economic and pension; Lifestyle, health, physical activity; Network and social relations.

References

  1. NRCWE, Tilbagetrækning fra arbejds markedet, 2011. Available at: http://www.arbejdsmiljoforskning.dk/da/arbejdsmiljoedata/flere-datasaet/arbejdsmiljo-og-helbred/~/media/Forside/Arbejdsmiljoedata/Arbejdsmiljo-og-helbred-2010/3-4-6--Tilbagetraekning-fra-arb-markedet.pdf (Accessed December 2014)
  2. SFI, 55-70-åriges forbliven på arbejdsmarkedet, 2011. Available at: http://www.sfi.dk/rapportoplysninger-4681.aspx?Action=1&NewsId=3071&PID=9267 (Accessed December 2014)
  3. A strategy for working environment efforts up to 2020. Available in English at: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/~/media/at/at/12-engelsk/rapporter/2020%20engelskpdf.ashx (Accessed December 2014)
  4. OSH Strategy of the Danish Working Environment Authority. Available in Danish at: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/~/media/at/at/01-arbejdstilsynet/01-formaal-og-opgaver/strategi2013%20pdf.ashx (Accessed December 2014)
  5. More information about the strategy on the website of the Ministry of Employment: http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/da/om%20arbejdstilsynet/arbejdsmiljoforskningsfonden/fondens-strategi-.aspx (Accessed December 2014)
  6. The website senioraftale.dk on which the brochures were published has seen been taken down. Publications, guidance, brochures and checklists are now available on the website www.seniorpraksis.dk (Accessed December 2014)
  7. OECD, Thematic follow-up review of policies to improve labour market - Prospects for older workers, Denmark (situation mid-2012), 2012. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/els/emp/Older%20Workers%20Denmark-MOD.pdf (Accessed December 2014)
  8. More information on the senior packages on the website of the Fund for Better Working Environment and Labour Retention: http://www.forebyggelsesfonden.dk/seniorpakker (Accessed December 2014)
  9. More information on the website of the Ministry of Employment: http://bm.dk/da/Aktuelt/Pressemeddelelser/Arkiv/2005/1101%20Seniorpolitisk%20konsulentordning%20og%20vidensbank.aspx (Accessed December 2014)
  10. Information provided by the EU-OSHA Focal point in February 2013
  11. Toolbox “Socialtengagement.dk” available at: http://socialtengagement.dk/fasthold-medarbejdere/seniorer (Accessed December 2104)
  12. Employment Agency, Seniorbonus og seniorsamtaler – 2 nye muligheder for at fastholde seniorer, 2008. Available at: http://hr.modst.dk/~/media/Publications/2008/Seniorbonusordninger%20og%20seniorsamtaler%20dec%202008/Seniorbonusordningen_dec%202008.ashx (Accessed December 2014)
  13. Social Integration Ministry, Deloitte, Tilbage til arbejdsmarkedet Erfaringer med folkepensionister og efterlønsmodtagere, der arbejder (Back to work – Experience with retirees and early retirees who work), 2012. Available at: http://sm.dk/publikationer/tilbage-til-arbejdsmarkedet-erfaringer-folkepensionister-og-efterlonsmodtagere-der-arbejder (Accessed December 2014)
  14. FirmaPlus, 55+ fastholdelse og udvikling i Greve Kommune. Available at: http://firmaplus.dk/wp-content/uploads/55plus_Evalueringsrapp_Greve_Komm_2012_28s_A4_interaktiv.pdf (Accessed December 2014)
  15. More information on seniorpraksis.dk website: http://seniorpraksis.dk/da/Vidensbank/Case-eksempler/Eksempler/Hilleroed-kommune.aspx (Accessed December 2014)
  16. LO, LO’s arbejdsmiljøstrategi, 2009. Available at: http://www.lo.dk/Politik/Arbejdsmiljo/LOs%20arbejdsmiljoestrategi/~/media/LO/Politikomrader/Arbejdsmiljo/LO_arbejdsmiljoestrategi/LO%20arbejdsmiljostrategi%2009%20web.ashx (Accessed December 2012)
  17. LO ÅRHUS, Guidelines til tillidsrepræsentanter ved udvikling af en seniorpraksis, 2005. Available at: http://seniorpraksis.dk/~/media/SFR/Seniorpraksis.dk/Files/Afklaring/Guidelines-til-tillidsrepraesentanter%20pdf.ashx (Accessed December 2012)
  18. Tindbæk, P., Planlæg din fremtid – Hvad skal der ske i dit liv, når 37 timers arbejdsugen slutter, 2009. Available at: http://seniorpraksis.dk/~/media/SFR/Seniorpraksis.dk/Files/Udvikling/Pjece-Planlaeg-din-fremtid%20pdf.ashx (Accessed December 2014)