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

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Initiatives from government/government-affiliated organisations

Occupational health and safety policies

The Bill introducing a package of measures on age management (see Section 1.3) brings forward the issue of health and safety at work of older workers. Two of the seven topics proposed in the bill for the company age management plans have a focus on health. Two other topics ‘anticipating career change’ and ‘measures related to the end of working life’ are directly related to second careers and working time arrangements. These plans should stimulate social dialogue and initiative on age management in large companies.

To assist companies in the negotiation and implementation of their action plan, the bill proposes the creation of a ‘Committee for the analysis and the promotion of working conditions’. This committee would be a multidisciplinary service attached to the Department of Occupational Health, in the Ministry of Labour and would include representatives of the Ministry of Labour, of the Department of Occupational Health, of the Labour and Mine Inspectorate and the Accident Insurance Association. The Committee would advise companies and employees to reduce work-related health problems. It will also be in charge of sensitisation campaigns and of the coordination of age-related measures in occupational medicine services.

The National Reform Programme of Luxembourg for 2013 reports the adoption of an Action Plan to improve age management in the public service sector, such as the introduction of a system for analysing and monitoring age structures, an awareness and training programme in the area of health management with an emphasis on older workers, an education programme that takes the age dimension into account, and an awareness campaign for executives responsible for the management of staff in ministerial departments, administration and services. The government approved the action plan in January 2013.

Employment policies

An Action Plan for the employment of young workers, announced in January 2013, proposes the creation of contracts between generations (contrats de génération), linking the recruitment of young workers to the retention of older workers in employment[1]. Under this contract, the hiring of a young worker must be combined with the retention of an older worker, in view of promoting employment of older workers and facilitating the transfer of knowledge between them.

Recent measures in Luxembourg have made it easier for workers to better manage their career and to reduce their working time, regardless of their age.

  • Part-time employment for civil servants for instance was introduced in 2000[2].
  • Discussions have recently focused on interim work as a potential solution to maintain older workers in employment while leaving them flexibility to organise their time[3].
  • The combination of part-time employment and pension has also been facilitated in the private sector and the civil service.

All of these measures have an employment perspective rather than a health and safety focus. However, the bill on age management introduced in April 2014 proposes to give workers over 50 with ten years employment in their company the possibility of reducing their working time by up to 50%. This measure could improve the transition between employment and retirement.

  • The working time account (compte épargne-temps) enables an employee to save up paid annual leave in return for holiday periods or time off that have not been taken (only five days out of the 25 days annual paid leave additional days off or overtime compensated by additional days off), or a part of his wage (exceeding the minimum social wage, or supplements for working on Sundays, at night). These leaves can be used for instance to shift to part-time work, phased-in retirement or for training purposes. Contrary to what is happening in France, the working time account in Luxembourg can only be used to take leave; the days saved up cannot be transformed into additional remuneration. The working time account system for private sector workers is managed by approved insurance companies that administer employees’ savings and make them available when employees need them. For public sector employees, the working time account is managed by the human resources department of the State administration. The working time account can be implemented rather freely as it is not strictly regulated.
  • Financial incentives: Policies aiming at facilitating the return to work of unemployed workers over 45 include benefits for companies hiring older workers. The Fund for employment reimburses social security contributions to employers when they employ an unemployed worker aged 45 and over, until the worker perceives his pension (Labour Code, art. 54-1 and seq.). If a company hires an unemployed worker of 40 and over, the reimbursement of contributions is planned for three years. Older workers can also benefit from personalised support from the National Employment Agency (ADEM) and from vocational training financed by the agency. In return, employment benefits are allocated to older workers only if they are actively looking for a job[4].
  • The bill on age management introduced in April 2014 goes beyond these measures introducing the possibility to unemployed workers over 50 to do a ‘traineeship’ in certain companies proposed by the Employment Agency ADEM . At the end of the traineeship, the company will inform the Agency of the possibilities of hiring the worker. A company that hires workers after the traineeship can benefit from the financial incentives described above. As mentioned earlier, the bill is at an early stage of the legislative procedure and has not gone through consultation of the social partners.

Human resources policies

The training leave (‘congé formation) is a life-long learning programme which offers the possibility to all workers in the private sector to take leave, of a maximum of 80 days, for training purposes in the course of their career. The beneficiary receives a compensatory allowance paid by the employer equal to the average daily wage. The system is financed by the State, which reimburses the compensatory allowance and the employer’s share of social security contributions. The State participation is up to 20% of the wage costs of the beneficiaries or 35% in case the beneficiary is over 45 years of age. Life-long learning programmes can be beneficial to employees exposed to arduous or repetitive working conditions, as they can prepare for a second career in the last years of their professional life and thus turn to less demanding jobs.

Diversity at the workplace

The Labour inspectorate has also been incited in past initiatives of the Ministry of Equalities to include quality standards for gender equality and diversity consultancy at workplaces and to integrate gender equality and diversity into initial training and lifelong learning for civil and local servants. However, in Luxembourg the approach focuses very much on gender equality and much less on age discrimination

Initiatives from social partners

No initiatives from the social partners have been identified on the health and safety of older workers.

Initiatives from other organisations

Initiatives by NGOs

Perspective[5], an NGO created in 2008 with the aim of supporting the employment of workers over 45, has set up a ‘mentoring programme[6]’, financed by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the European Social Fund, to help enterprises integrating mentoring practices in their company policy. The programme assists mentors in companies to pass on experience to younger workers, through exchange of experience between mentors and trainees. It underlines the value of experienced workers, avoids loss of competences, addresses skill shortages and maintains older workers in employment.

Initiatives by companies

CEPS/INSTEAD, a public research institute on social sciences, conducted two surveys in 2004 and 2012 to measure the level of awareness in private sector companies on the ageing of their workforce and to identify the kind of measures they have implemented to face it[7]. Results show that interest in age management has risen in companies, and that more companies have put in place work arrangements, especially on working time, or specific training. The survey also reveals that companies tend to adopt a broad strategy on working conditions that benefits all workers rather than arrangements targeting specifically older workers.

Some indicative examples, extracted from the surveys:

  • BGL BNP Paribas: BNP Paribas bank has put measures in place that promote OSH among older workers and encourages them to stay in work; i.e. the introduction of training courses specifically created for workers over 45, the provision of free medical check-ups for employees aged between 45 and 55 (costs are borne by the employer) and two additional leave days for employees aged 50-54 and three additional leave days for employees over 55. Moreover, if an employee has reached the statutory retirement age or early retirement with at least 40 years of contribution, he/she will receive a supplementary occupational pension and a bonus payment upon retirement. Since 2005 it has been possible to convert this bonus into time to be used for reducing working hours in the week or for reducing total working time.
  • Société éléctrique de l’Our: This electrical provider has restructured its workplace in order to adapt to the needs of workers with disabilities or slight impairments (e.g. occupational safety measures were strengthened). It also offers employees the possibility to change jobs within the company if they can no longer do certain tasks. If reclassification is not possible, the company facilitates the participation in re-training programmes. As regards older workers, regular medical check-ups are organised by the company and workers older than 50 years old can take preventive heart disease examinations.

References

  1. Gouvernement du Grand-Duché du Luxembourg, press pack ‘La politique de l’emploi, bilan et futures mesures’, press conference of 23 January 2013. Available at: http://www.gouvernement.lu/1791628/23-schmit (Accessed October 2014)
  2. ‘Service à temps partiel’ (part-time employment) information: http://www.fonction-publique.public.lu/fr/statut/fonctionnaire/service-temps-partiel/index.html (Accessed October 2014)
  3. Genevois, A.S., ‘Intérim des séniors, une piste pour favoriser le vieillissement actif ?’, Vivre au Luxembourg, n°85, CEPS/INSTEAD, 2012, p2. Available at: http://www.ceps.lu/?type=module&id=104&tmp=1898 (Accessed October 2014)
  4. Leduc, K. ‘Le Luxembourg face au vieillissement de sa population active: des politiques publiques aux politiques d'entreprises’, Les Cahiers du CEPS/INSTEAD, n°2010-07, CEPS/INSTEAD, 2010, p20. Available at: http://www.ceps.lu/?type=module&id=104&tmp=1518 (Accessed October 2014)
  5. ZGEDplan, Gender Equality & Diversity Planning at Workplaces: State of Art Review, 2009. Available at: http://www.europaforum.public.lu/fr/temoignages-reportages/2009/12/ged-plan/State_of_Art_Review_GED_Plan_171109.pdf (Accessed October 2014)
  6. Perspective 45 website: http://www.perspective45.lu/mmp/online/website/menu_main/mentoring/91/index_FR.html (Accessed October 2014)
  7. Leduc, K., ‘Les politiques managériales des entreprises envers les seniors’, Les Cahiers du CEPS/INSTEAD, n°2013-01, 2013, 16 p. Available at: http://www.ceps.lu/?type=module&id=104&tmp=1911 (Accessed October 2014)

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palmerk, Richard Graveling
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