Overview of policy, strategy and programmes in relation to the occupational health and safety of older workers - Italy

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Initiatives from government/government-affiliated organisations

Occupational health and safety

The Ministry of Labour has published a document, approved on 29 May 2013, on the Standing Advisory Committee on Health and Safety at Work’s proposals for a National Strategy for the prevention of accidents at work and of occupational diseases[1]. With this document, the Advisory Committee has sought to enhance the dissemination of the culture of health and safety at work, the promotion and dissemination of safe behaviours, improve monitoring activities and support the effectiveness of prevention activities. More specifically, the National Strategy aims to, inter-alia:

  • Prepare and disseminate tools freely available online on governmental websites or dedicated websites to support firms, particularly with respect to small, medium and micro enterprises (good practices, guidelines, operating procedures, informative material).
  • Carry out systematic informative campaigns on OHS both to the general public and targeted groups or economic sectors; to strengthen the information system with the aim of identifying regional needs differentiated by gender;
  • Programme and plan actions for increasing the levels of safety in the workplace through the improvement of inspective services as well as information and assistance to workers and enterprises;

Both musculoskeletal and neoplasms disorders are considered priorities for supervisory action to encourage the reduction of occupational diseases. Nothing is mentioned on older workers, age management or work ability.

In order to achieve a coherent planning of inspection activities on the Italian territory, the Ministry Labour and Social Policies annually publishes a programming document. The “Programming Document of the supervision activity for the year 2013”[2] outlined specific targets for intervention, the modalities of technical surveillance and the promotion of prevention activities. It also defined the project for the quality, transparency and uniformity of the inspection system. Specific reference is made to inspections that verify the implementation of law 68/99 on the protection of workers with disabilities. Specific inspections with regard to the condition of older workers are not mentioned in the Plan.

Active ageing

The 2012 National Programme[3] promoting an active, vital and dignified ageing in a solidarity-based society aims at promoting a new, more positive idea of old-age, volunteering and a range of other activities that favour an active ageing, and it encourages life-long learning projects, the transmission of knowledge from older to younger generations, education programmes on active and healthy life-styles and the solidarity between generations also through a sounder family support.

The programme encourages Regions and local authorities to set up programmes in order to fully implement the national strategy and exchange information and ideas. To this aim, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers created a web site for the European year of active ageing, together with a dedicated e-mail, where citizens and actors can submit events and initiatives at local, regional and national level and publish studies or research papers on related issues. In cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Isfol, the national strategy envisages the screening and monitoring of regional and local plans for an active ageing and the regular review of the implementation of such plans, which will also take into account the comments of stakeholders and trade unions.

The Programme enumerates a number of initiatives and Ministerial working papers adopted in various areas (social policy, volunteering, inter-generational dialogue, etc.) in order to facilitate the achievement of national and European objectives.

The activities promoted include:

  • Monitoring of regional and local initiatives for active ageing: The research carried out the selection and later classification and description of regional and local initiatives, implemented from 2007 and addressed to workers in their second half of career (over-45s)[4]. Examples of initiatives regard incentives to encourage old workers to remain in employment, training opportunities and promotion of health and wellbeing for older workers.
  • Monitoring of European information campaigns on active ageing: this involved getting a feedback from the main information activities and campaigns in support to national programmes for active ageing in other European countries.
  • Monitoring of employment services in EU member states: The research has examined different employment service systems for older workers in other EU Member States.
  • Monitoring of the regional strategy of Madrid International Action Plan on Ageing (MIPAA)[5] in Italy.

Employment

Up to the 1990s, the government adopted a number of measures – such as early retirement – to force older workers out of the labour market and to deal with the ageing of the workers. However, solutions of this kind are now regarded as misguided, marginalising older workers instead of providing them with adequate retraining. Italy is now trying to redesign the employment policies with a view to promoting employability for this age group, safeguarding their OSH rights, and increasing employment rates by postponing exit from employment for those aged over 50[6].

The most recent reform of the labour market (law 92/2012) introduced:

  • A tax incentive for companies employing over-50 workers who have lost their job for over 12 months: This means employers benefit a 50% tax reduction both with fixed-term contracts (the reduction lasts 12 months in this case), and open-ended contracts (the reduction lasts 18 months in this case)[7]. This is not something completely new, as a matter of fact, in 2010 the Finance Act already established similar incentives.
  • The restructuring of employment agencies activities in order to create measures supporting over-50 workers: They provide a specific placement service (work agencies matching demand and supply and offering consultancy and training) designed for people struggling in the labour market. Besides, for some years now, employers’ organisations and local institutions (especially Town halls) have developed many initiatives at local level, sometimes by joining their forces. These activities common objective is creating financed projects (sometimes by the European Social Fund) for the reintegration of over-50 workers that lost their jobs.

Although Italy does not have a formal policy promoting the transfer of experience between generations, some recent initiatives are bringing common responses to the unemployment of young and older workers:

  • Generation Handover is a new employment formula that guarantees the placement of young people and at the same time the maintenance of mature workers within the same company. The mechanisms is sponsored by the Ministry of Labour, with the Ministerial Decree 807/2012 and funded by the ESF within the Project ‘Welfare to Work policies for re-introduction to work 2012 - 2014’[8]. The mechanism is based on a simple and effective formula which stimulates the employer to take on young people as trainees and / or for an open-ended contract, while offering a conversion of the contract - from full-time to part-time - to older workers of the same company. The older worker is encouraged to voluntarily accept the transformation of the contract because it will still guarantee (by a minimum of 12 months to a maximum of 36 months) the full payment of social security contributions despite working only half time.

Initiatives from social partners

No initiatives from the social partners have been identified.

Initiatives from other organisations

The L’Incontro initiative is a non-profit, social cooperative[9]. It recruits older maintenance workers from the region’s local industries to work as instructors in protected job-centres. The workers had either recently retired or had taken early retirement: flexible work practices using part-time contracts and variable work shifts were thus adopted. The L’Incontro initiative began in 1992 and was first prompted by problems encountered in recruiting qualified health care staff. As a result, management, with the approval of the assembly members, began to recruit workers who have taken early retirement and recently retired older workers. It also introduced flexible work schedules, i.e. part-time contracts and daily and weekly work schedules that matched workers’ needs. The initiative had positive effects for the cooperative, in terms of better services, better employee relations and increased motivation. The new employees – former specialised line workers and team leaders from the mechanical, electrical, electronic and agricultural sectors – raised the overall level of professional skill and expertise in the workforce and allowed L’Incontro to expand its production lines. Older workers also benefited, by extending their working lives without the restrictions of a full-time or inflexible job.

References

  1. Available on the website of the Ministry of Labour: http://www.lavoro.gov.it/SicurezzaLavoro/Documents/Documento_29_maggio_2013_Strategianazionale.pdf (Accessed October 2014)
  2. Available at: http://olympus.uniurb.it/images/stories/pdf/2013programma.vigilanza.pdf (Accessed October 2014)
  3. Programma Nazionale di lavoro Per un invecchiamento attivo, vitale e dignitoso in una società solidale, available at: http://www.invecchiamentoattivo.politicheperlafamiglia.it/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Anno-invecchiamento-2012-Programma-nazionale-lavoro.pdf (accessed October 2014)
  4. Eurofound, Presentation “Improving Working Conditions: Contribution to Active Ageing – The Case of ITALY”, 2012. Available at: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/docs/events/2012/fssrome/italy.pdf (Accessed October 2014)
  5. http://undesadspd.org/Ageing/Resources/MadridInternationalPlanofActiononAgeing.aspx
  6. ADAPT Consortium, ELDERS project – Elder Employees in Companies Experiencing Restructuring: Stress and Well-Being, Final Report presented to the European Commission under the Community Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity – PROGRESS (2007-2013), Modena, 2009-2010. Available at: http://adapt.it/archivio_bollettinoadapt/site/home/progetti/elders/documento10916.pdf (Accessed October 2104)
  7. Eurofound, Italy: The role of governments and social partners in keeping older workers in the labour market, 2012. Available at: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/studies/tn1210012s/it1210019q.htm (Accessed October 2014)
  8. Information available on Italia Lavoro website: http://www.italialavoro.it/wps/portal/w2w (Accessed October 2014)
  9. Eurofound, L'Incontro Cooperative, Italy Job recruitment and flexible work practices, 2009. Available at: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/areas/populationandsociety/cases/it004.htm#contentpage (accessed October 2014