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

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Initiatives from government / government-affiliated organisations

National level

Demographic changes

Demography strategy of the Federal Government (Demografiestrategie der Bundesregierung): Germany has been facing major demographic changes in its population for the past decades. In particular, the general population, and consequently the workforce, is ageing, which requires a number of societal adaptations, including for the world of work. The government’s cross-policy demography strategy “Every Age Counts” (Jedes Alter Zählt), launched in April 2012, focuses on six areas for the development of measures to take full advantage of the future opportunities and potential of demographic changes:

  • Family strengthening as a community
  • Motivated, qualified and healthy working
  • Independent living in old age
  • Quality of life in rural areas and integrated urban policy
  • Sustainable growth and prosperity
  • Governance and public finance

The second priority relates to workers’ health, safety and well-being and has the following goals:

  • Maintain and promote health at the workplace, avoid or minimise risks
  • Develop qualification and training throughout the whole life course
  • Create framework conditions for longer working lives
  • Raise awareness for a culture of longer working lives and strengthen stakeholder cooperation
  • Reward lifetime achievements during retirement and honour provisions for old age.

With these objectives, the Federal Government aims to foster occupational health protection and promotion and encourages enterprises to enhance their workers’ health. Together with employer associations and trade unions, the federal government supports the creation of age-appropriate workplaces and a culture for a better, longer, working life[1].

The Strategy is enforced at all levels and actions and measures are implemented, through specific working groups, not only by the federal government but also by the länder, the local authorities, the social partners, the social insurance institutions, and other relevant stakeholders.

Occupational Health and Safety

Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (Gemeinsame Deutsche Arbeitsschutzstrategie, GDA): The objective of this strategy is to preserve, improve and promote the safety and health of workers at any age – supplemented by measures of workplace health promotion – and to develop user-friendly, transparent and harmonised sets of rules and regulations. The strategy was agreed by the Federal Government, the Federal States and the Public Accident Insurance Institutions in 2007 during the 84th Labour and Social Affairs Ministers' Conference of the Federal States (ASMK). The GDA obliges the three parties to agree on joint objectives in the area of OSH, priority fields of action, cornerstones for work programmes, and uniform principles for the implementation of activities. For the years 2013 – 2018 the GDA focuses its activities on three specified objectives: (1) Improvement in the organisation of company occupational safety and health, (2) reduction in work-related health hazards and musculoskeletal disorders and (3) protection and strengthening of health in the case of work-related mental load. Most of the activities have a focus on demographic change and an ageing workforce. All activities and outcomes of the GDA are evaluated[2].

Initiative New Quality of Work (Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit, INQA)[3] was launched in 2002 as a joint undertaking by the German federal government, the federal states, social insurance institutions, social partners and other partners. The aim of the project was to promote a better quality of work as a key factor for sustaining competitiveness and innovative capacity of businesses in Germany in the long term. Nowadays, the initiative coordinates the activities of the involved institutions in Germany and provides an independent platform for a constructive exchange of information and ideas on business practice. Under the auspices of the initiative and supported by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, political, economic, scientific and social representatives focus on the question of how to create working conditions that are both attractive to employees and foster their well-being and are economically viable for the companies. INQA initiates and fosters a broad range of initiatives:

  • Several networks on specific topics and target groups to share and transfer expertise and knowledge (e.g. networks for SMEs or the Demographic Network, ddn – see below).
  • Publications, guidelines and checklists:
    • e.g. eLearning-Tool “Psychological health promotion as a leadership task”[4],
    • online assessment-tool “INQA-Demografie-Check” for enterprises[5],
    • report “Securing the Future with Prevention – Strategies for a World of Work aligned to Demographic Change”
  • A database with examples of good practices from companies. INQA is focusing on four areas of HR and OSH policy: personnel management, equal opportunity and diversity, knowledge and skills, and health at work.

Examples of initiatives funded by INQA are presented below:

  • WAI-Network (WAI-Netzwerk): The WAI-Network is an association of enterprises and users of the Work-Ability-Index (WAI). In 2003 the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) initiated the network. Today it is funded by INQA. The overall objective of the network is to promote the application of the WAI in Germany. This will be achieved through the exchange of expertise between interested experts and users, as well as the establishment of a national WAI database. In addition, the instrument and its use are practically and scientifically studied. The main idea of the activities of the network is the focus on practical application. The network provides materials, guides and practical support for implementing the WAI in enterprises[6].
  • The Demographic Network (Das Demografie-Netzwerk e.V., ddn): ddn is a non-profit network of more than 350 companies and institutions with HR responsibility for around two million employees. The members of the ddn want to make ideal preparations for demographic change and ageing workforces. ddn aims to make demographic change a priority. In ten “Golden Rules”, the ddn member companies commit, among other things, to a non-discriminatory, age-neutral HR policy, a balanced age structure of their workforce, holistic health promotion and the transfer of knowledge between generations. ddn was set up in March 2006 on the initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the “New Quality of Work” initiative (INQA). In ddn, 11 specialist working/issue groups are established. In the groups, new knowledge is gained and existing expertise exchanged in the spirit of partnership. The focus is on issues such as health, work organisation, qualifications and further training, as well as leadership and corporate culture. Furthermore, 17 regional ddn networks have been set up to make the results of the working group available to small and medium-sized local companies as well[7].
  • Demography Knowledge Compact (Demografie Wissen Kompakt) is a series of conferences organized by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) that aims at sharing knowledge and practices with consultants, HR managers, works councils and other OSH stakeholders regarding the management of demographic change in companies. The conferences give the opportunity to communicate and disseminate tools that were largely developed in the framework of INQA[8].
  • Campaign for the Middleclass (Offensive Mittelstand) is an independent SME Network of the INQA. Under the Campaign for the Middleclass a new form of support has been developed, which represents the combination of a quality standard and a practical instrument. These instruments have been developed by all partners by consensus and may be directly implemented by the companies. One of these instruments is the ‘NQWI-Check Personnel Management – using demographic change as an opportunity’ (INQA-Check „Personalführung – den demografischen Wandel als Chance nutzen).

Work Programme of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA): BAuA promotes the transfer of research and knowledge on safety and health at work into practice with a broad range of activities. With a view specifically to the changing world of work, long-term focal research topics in the BAuA work programme 2014-2017 are: 1. Ensuring the safe use of chemicals and products; 2. Adapting working conditions to the needs of humans; 3. Avoiding work-related diseases – promotion of health and workability; 4. Understanding the impacts of a changing working world and further developing occupational-safety instruments; 5. Communicating information on the working world and occupational safety. Under theme 3, the BAuA will research the conditions for the development of MSDs as well as the links between working conditions, mental health and workability. Under theme 4, the BAuA will focus its research on external socio-economic factors that impact the world of work, in particular demographic changes[9].

Several events and publications have been prepared by the BAuA on the topics of an ageing workforce (e.g. “Everything grey on grey? Ageing workforces and office work”[10]), diversity, work ability (e.g. “The Work Ability Index – A Guide / Der Work Ability Index - ein Leitfaden[11]”, prevention, workplace health promotion, musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. “Back Protective Work in the daily routine of nursing”[12]), and medical and occupational rehabilitation. Some of the BAuA activities are operated together with INQA (see details below).

Employment

The Professional Offensive (Fachkräfte-Offensive): An important concern in Germany, in the context of the ageing of the workforce, relates to the shortage of skilled labour as it is foreseen that, by 2025, there will be 6 million workers fewer on the labour market if nothing changes. To address this challenge, the German government launched end of 2014 the “professional offensive” (Fachkräfte-Offensive), which aims to support workplaces with the difficulties of keeping or recruiting skilled labour. One of the target groups is older workers and the government wants to put in place measures to keep people at work longer. Under the umbrella of this strategy, the German government is promoting a number of instruments directly related to workers’ well-being and work sustainability, such as the Initiative New Quality of Work or the German Network for Workplace Health Promotion (Deutsches Netzwerk für Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung – DNBGF)[13].

Perspective 50Plus (Perspektive 50Plus), 10-2005-12/2015: This programme, organised by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and various regional partners (companies, chambers and federations, educational institutions, bodies of economic development etc.), aims to improve the opportunities of older and permanently unemployed persons to fully participate in and benefit from a social and working life. It serves as a forum for developing, discussing and testing new and advancing established methods and instruments of employment policy: The BMAS funds innovative regional projects that are selected by an independent jury. In addition, it supports the exchange of experiences between projects by organising periodical events[14].

Further training of low-skilled workers and older employees in employment (Weiterbildung Geringqualifizierter und beschäftigter älterer Arbeitnehmer in Unternehmen, WeGebAU): This is a lifelong learning programme by the Federal Employment Agency to further train low-skilled workers and older employees. The programme aims to improve knowledge and skills, which can be applied and used in future jobs. Participants of the programme receive a financial reimbursement[15].

Regional/local level

Occupational Health and Safety

Health at work (Gesundheit am Arbeitsplatz – gesa): The Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Family and Equality of Land Schleswig-Holstein initiated the formation of a regional network for health at work in 2002. A wide range of (regional) actors are involved (e.g. Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Family and Equality of Land Schleswig-Holstein, Employer’s Liability Insurance Associations, health insurance funds, scientific institutions, and social partners). The main aim of Health at Work is to foster workplace health promotion and healthy working conditions. It focuses on healthy corporate culture and additionally, leadership. Health at Work offers counselling for regional companies and presents good practices on their homepage[16].

Occupational Health- and Risk-Management-System (OHRIS): OHRIS was developed by the Government of the Land Bavaria, the regional trade association, and companies. The Bavarian labour inspection supports the introduction of the Risk-Management-System. Small and medium-sized enterprises can receive financial support from the Bavarian state[17].

Employment

Demography active (Demografie Aktiv): This initiative, set up by the State Government of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Federation of Employers’ Associations NRW and the German Trade Union Federation NRW, aims to support companies with an ageing workforce. They provide companies with a management tool to analyse needs for action and to develop adapted activities for their employees. The tool analyses, amongst other areas, the knowledge about demographic topics in the companies, e.g. age structure of the workforce, available data about employees’ health, and health promoting and health imperilling working conditions. Companies that have completed the process are awarded a specific label. A service centre provides information about tool and the label, complementary training offers, the company network ‘Demografie Aktiv’, and counselling and funding offered by the state and the social partners[18].

Initiatives from social partners

The initiatives listed below include those specific to an ageing workforce and some general ones which are particularly relevant to ageing workers.

DGB Good Work Index (DGB-Index Gute Arbeit): Since 2007, the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) has been conducting an annual representative survey of employees with the questionnaire “DGB Good Work Index”. The questionnaire includes, among others, items to measure work motivation, commitment, job satisfaction, work ability, and the development of working conditions. The findings are frequently published and are used for political argumentation. Since 2008, the questionnaire is also being used in companies, organisations and institutions for internal surveys. This offers the opportunity to discuss the findings inside the organisations and derive measures for a better work environment. It is possible to fill in an individual questionnaire on the homepage of the “DGB Good Work Index”[19].

Collective Agreement “Working lifetime and demography” (Tarifvertrag "Lebensarbeitszeit und Demografie"): This collective agreement between the Industrial Mining, Chemistry and Energy Union (Industriegewerkschaft Bergbau, Chemie, Energie, IG BCE) and the Chemical Employers’ Association (Bundesarbeitgeberverband Chemie, BAVC), focuses on four elements: (1) compiling an analysis of demographic aspects for each company, (2) developing a health and ageing appropriate work design and organisation, (3) lifelong learning, and (4) providing instruments to facilitate the transition between phases of training, working and retirement. In the context of OSH the first and the second points are especially relevant. The analysis of demographic aspects aims at giving indications for risks of demographic change and an ageing workforce in the respective company that might affect e.g. personnel recruitment, productivity, work ability, and innovative ability. On the basis of the findings of the analysis, the employer and the works’ council deliberate on company-specific measures. Examples for possible measures are the implementation of a health and ageing appropriate work design for any age and older employees, fostering work place health promotion and enabling work-life balance[20].

Collective Agreement (Demografietarifvertrag von EVG und DB): This collective agreement between the Deutsche Bahn corporate group, the Employers’ Association MoVe e.V. (AgV MoVe) and the Railway and Transport Union (Eisenbahn- und Verkehrsgewerkschaft (EVG) aims at changing working times and organising training for their employees that are adapted to their actual stage of life and career – e.g. employees over 60 who work night shift, rotating shift or on-call duty can reduce their working-time by 20% and receive 85,7% of their previous remuneration. Additionally it offers workplace health promotion activities and it focuses on more age appropriate workplace designs[21].

Campaign for an act to reduce work related stress (Anti-Stress-Verordnung): The industrial union for the metal sector (IG Metall) demands a federal state act for reducing work-related stress. The campaign fosters the political debate in Germany[22].

Joint declaration on mental health in the workplace (Gemeinsame Erklärung Psychische Gesundheit in der Arbeitswelt): In a joint declaration, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the Federal Association of German Employers’ Associations (BDA) and the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) define their common understanding of mental health, work characteristics that affect mental health, and explain their activities to reduce stress and strain like the New Quality of Work Initiative (see 2.1.1)[23].

TBS NRW (Technology Advisory Board NRW) (Technologieberatungsstelle Nordrhein-Westphalen): is a registered association supported by the North Rhine-Westphalian trade unions and the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Labour, Integration and Social Affairs. The principal goal of the TBS NRW is the design and promotion of workers-oriented and socially acceptable structural change in North Rhine-Westphalia. Special consideration is given to problems of small and medium-sized enterprises. Regarding demographic change, the TBS organises a range of activities. These include on one hand workshops on relevant topics, such as age-appropriate organisation of shift work and demographic changes in companies, and on the other hand the publication of guidance documents providing information on demographic change related issues.

Initiatives from other organisations

Initiative for Health and Work (Initiative Gesundheit und Arbeit, iga)[24]. This initiative by the Federal Association of Company Health Insurance Funds (BKK-Bundesverband), the Federal Association of Local Health Insurance Funds (AOK-Bundesverband), the Association of Substitute Health Funds (Verband der Ersatzkassen, vdek) and the German Statutory Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung, DGUV), was established in 2002. It provides stimuli for an exchange between statutory health insurance funds, institutions for statutory accident insurance and prevention, and other bodies working on prevention at the workplace. While iga combines the financial capacity and expertise of its members, it does not offer financial support directly. It provides technical support with the development of methodologies, guidance, tools and the implementation of projects, it provides exchange and networking opportunities for the institutions involved and it runs a contact point to help companies that want to start prevention activities find the right support. The contact point helps put companies in contact with the appropriate health insurance funds and/or statutory accident insurances, which are then able to provide financial support and expertise. In practice, the health insurance funds and statutory accident insurances work together on projects with companies. The initiative aims to promote health at the workplace by developing solutions and activities in the following five areas, four of which are general and one relates specifically to older workers:

  1. Prevention aims and objectives – iga has developed a procedure for devising work-related prevention goals which help the institutions involved to identify prevention topics based on indicators important to them.
  2. Changes in the world of work – because of structural and demographic changes in the world of work, iga focuses on the ageing workforce. For example, it does so through the development of scenarios for individual companies for the year 2020, taking into account, among other factors, the regional economic situation, training requirements and the age structure of the employees.
  3. Healthy work – employees should be given access to measures promoting health, and their supervisors should take account of cultural differences. iga has developed the concept of intercultural in-company health management. It aims to ensure that all employees are aware of their rights and obligations concerning health and safety at work.
  4. Effectiveness of prevention – iga published literature reviews about the effectiveness of measures for safety at work and for occupational health promotion.
  5. Network and exchange of information – iga supports the German Network for Occupational Health Promotion (“Deutsches Netzwerk für betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung”, DNBGF). By now the DNBGF has developed into the largest platform for occupational health promotion in Germany.

Healthy in medium-sized businesses (Gesund im Mittelstand – GiM): This initiative, organised by the Employer’s Liability Insurance Association Wood and Metal (Berufsgenossenschaft Holz und Metall – BGHM), offers companies from the wood and metal sector with 50-500 employees an employee survey to assess the health conditions of their employees. Key aspects addressed in this survey are psycho-social factors and ageing appropriate working conditions. Workshops are organised to discuss how results and factors identified can be positively influenced and changed, particularly by acting on leadership, organisation and communication issues[25].

Healthy in crafts and trades (Gesund im Handwerk): The initiative „Gesund im Handwerk“ offers to conduct an employee survey for crafts and trades companies from the wood and metal sector with up to 50 employees. The results of this survey, including information on employee’s health status and commitment to the company, are presented in a company profile. Strengths and weaknesses of the company are presented and compared to the branch of trade. In this way, company owners can easily identify and tackle individual key aspects.

German Network for Workplace Health Promotion (Deutsches Netzwerk für Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung, DNBGF): DNBGF is a platform for the national exchange of experience and information by stakeholders in the field of workplace health promotion[26].

Predemo (prevention and demographics) (Prädemo (Prävention und Demografie))[27] is a project, running from January 2012 to April 2015, which aims to promote the innovative capacity of SMEs through preventive, demographics-oriented, work design, through inter-company alliances and regional cooperation. The project was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the European Social Fund. The project partners were: BC GmbH research and consulting company Wiesbaden, the Trade association of raw materials and chemical industry (BG RCI), the Institute for Workplace Health Promotion (BGF), the Institute for Technique of Business Management in the German Skilled Crafts Institute (ITB), Mercer Germany and the Association for safety, health and environmental protection at work (VDSI). The project aims to develop tools, concepts and models that SMEs can make use of in order to enhance their innovative capacity, taking into account their changing demographic situation.

References

  1. 97 More information on the website of the Federal government: http://www.bundesregierung.de/Webs/Breg/DE/Themen/Demografiestrategie/_node.html (accessed December 2014).
  2. Website of the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy: http://www.gda-portal.de/en/ and http://www.gda- portal.de (accessed December 2014).
  3. http://www.inqa.de/EN and http://www.inqa.de (accessed on 06 January 2014).
  4. E-Learning tool available at: http://psyga.info/elearningtool/en/ (accessed December 2014).
  5. INQA-Demografie-Check tool available at: http://www.inqa-demographie-check.de (accessed December 2014).
  6. INQA website: http://www.arbeitsfaehigkeit.net (accessed December 2014).
  7. Website of the Demographic Network: http://demographic-network.com/ (in English) and http://demographie-netzwerk.de/ (in German) (accessed December 2014).
  8. More information on INQA website: http://www.inqa.de/DE/Service/Termine/2014/2014-11-17-demografie-wissen-kompakt.html (accessed December 2014)
  9. BAuA, Research on health and safety at work, Working programme 2014-2017, April 2014. Available at: http://www.baua.de/en/Publications/Brochures/I31.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=2 (Accessed May 2015)
  10. BAuA, Everything grey on grey?. Ageing workforces and office work, 2008. Available at: http://www.baua.de/en/Publications/Brochures/A48.html (Accessed December 2014).
  11. BAuA, The Work Ability Index – A guide, 2007. Available at: http://www.baua.de/de/Publikationen/Sonderschriften/2000-/S87.html (Accessed December 2014).
  12. BAuA, Back Protective Work in the daily routine of nursing, 2012. Available at: http://www.baua.de/en/Publications/Expert-Papers/Gd66.html (Accessed December 2014).
  13. Web portal of the “Professional Offensive”: http://www.fachkraefte-offensive.de/DE/Startseite/start.html (Accessed May 2015)
  14. Perspective 50Plus website: http://www.perspektive50plus.de/ (accessed December 2014).
  15. More information on the website of the Federal Employment Agency: http://www.arbeitsagentur.de/web/content/DE/dienststellen/rdn/badoldesloe/Agentur/Unternehmen/Geldleistungen/Detail/index.htm?dfContentId=L6019022DSTBAI508980 (accessed December 2014).
  16. More information on the website of the Schleswig-holstein portal: http://www.gesa.schleswig-holstein.de (accessed December 2014).
  17. More information on the website of the Government of the Land Bavaria: http://www.stmas.bayern.de/arbeitsschutz/managementsysteme/ohris.php (accessed December 2014).
  18. Demografie Aktiv webpage: http://www.arbeit-demografie.nrw.de (accessed December 2014).
  19. DGB Good Work Index website: http://www.dgb-index-gute-arbeit.de (accessed December 2014).
  20. More information on the website of the IG BCE: https://www.igbce.de/tarife/5326/lebensarbeitszeit-demografie (accessed December 2014).
  21. More information on the website of the EVG: http://www.evg-online.org/Tarifpolitik/archivmeldungen/12_12_06_Zukunft_TV/ (accessed December 2014).
  22. IG Metall Vorstand, Anti-Stress-Verordnung – Eine Initiative der IG Metall, 2012. Available at: http://www.igmetall.de (accessed December 2014).
  23. Declaration available at: http://www.bmas.de/DE/Service/Publikationen/a-449-gemeinsame-erklaerung-psychische-gesundheit-arbeitswelt.html?nn=5664 (accessed December 2014).
  24. iga website: http://www.iga-info.de/english-introduction.html (accessed December 2014).
  25. More information on BGHM website: http://www.bghm.de/arbeitsschuetzer/angebote-und-aktionen/beratungsangebote/gesund-im-mittelstand-gim.html (accessed December 2014).
  26. DNBGF website: http://www.dnbgf.de/international.html (accessed December 2014).
  27. Prädemo website: http://www.praedemo.de/index.htm (Accessed May 2015)