Information provided by BONUM VITAE and desk research
In Poland, the employment rate of 20-64-year-olds of 76.7% is higher than the EU average of 74.6%. However, when we look at the employment rates of older people, we see a drastic decrease, reflecting insufficient support for older workers. The employment rate for Poles aged 50-64 is indeed 64.7% compared to 68.8% in Europe.
Among the measures in place, a provision of the Labour Code protects Poles close to the retirement age from unemployment. It provides that “an employer must not serve a notice of termination on an employee who will reach the retirement age in not more than 4 years if his employment period would enable him to receive a retirement pension upon reaching this age”.
Some local initiatives support older job seekers, such as the Employment Office in Gdańsk. At this centre, counsellors examine the education, work experience and skills of older people who visit the centre to help them create applications, search for vacancies and prepare for interviews.
In 2020, the Ministry of Family and Social Policy announced a resolution establishing a new long-term programme to support older people: Active +. This programme is active from 2021 to 2025 and provides for the co-financing of projects of NGOs and other entities acting for the benefit of older people. The funding of these projects focuses on four priority areas: social activity, social participation, digital inclusion and preparation for old age. Within the first area of activity, the programme will fund projects aimed at increasing the involvement of older people in the labour market.
In Poland, older people have the possibility to work during their retirement, but there are salary limits. In practice, this makes it difficult for pensioners to find additional attractive and well-paid work, for fear that their pension payments will be suspended if they exceed a certain amount of earnings. According to the Central Statistical Officer, “roughly one in ten (12.5 per cent) pensioners is earning a pension. Women predominated among working pensioners at the end of last year and accounted for 57.5 per cent of employed seniors. More than 94 per cent were aged 60/65 and over. The average age of working pensioners was 66.9 years. For men, it was 68.3 years and for women, it was 65.8 years”.
The Medical University of Gdańsk has produced an interesting study which points out in its chapter “Occupational Activity” that every third person aged 60-64, every fourth person aged 65-69 and every sixth person aged 70-74 declare to be interested in a job and that the most important factors increasing this interest are higher pay, part-time work and the possibility of working from home. Thus, in their conclusions, the Medical University of Gdańsk reminds us of the need to produce more disaggregated data on the subject. They also point out the need to implement instruments that encourage and enable older people to work beyond retirement age, including delaying the transition to retirement or part-time work after receiving pension benefits.
Age discrimination in employment
The Polish legislation provides an anti-discrimination clause through article 32 of the Constitution which states that “all persons shall be equal before the law. All persons shall have the right to equal treatment by public authorities » and that “no one shall be discriminated against in political, social or economic life for any reason whatsoever ».
More specifically, the Polish Labour Code provides discrimination in employment. The amendments from 2004 allowed to transpose the EU Employment directive and introduced age discrimination. It states that « Any discrimination in employment, direct or indirect, in particular in respect of gender, age, disability, race, religion, nationality, political views, trade union membership, ethnic origin, creed, sexual orientation or in respect of the conditions of employment for a definite or an indefinite period of time or full or part-time, are prohibited. »
The main Equality body in charge of the implementation of the principle of equal treatment is the Commissioner for Human Rights. In the 2021 report on the activities of the Commissioner, a key task mentioned is the fight against age discrimination. In particular, the Commissioner instructed the Minister for Family and Social Policy to take measures to combat the phenomenon of ageism. He also recalled that he “has been engaged in the debate and activities aimed at drawing up a new Convention on the rights of older people. In this regard, he has cooperated, inter alia, with the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA)”. These activities, while not specifically aimed at addressing ageism in the workplace, have the objective of ending ageism in a holistic way within society and in all sectors of activity.
Workplaces for all ages
In 2016-2017, under the patronage of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), the Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute coordinated a Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign in Poland. The campaign highlighted the various challenges for the ageing workforce including the lack of prevention, age discrimination and specific need of older workers. To address this, the campaign emphasised the need to follow good occupational safety and health (OSH) management practices and address the needs “of the entire working population, from those new to the job market to those nearing retirement”.
The campaign was also the opportunity to shed light on a number of organisations that have adopted good practices for sustainable working lives. In terms of health and safety protection for employees aged 50+, the programmes implemented by Cemex Polska S.A. are promoted by the campaign. These programmes aim to support older employees to extend their professional activity thanks to “self-development, additional medical care package, access to sports clubs, health-promoting schemes and involvement of employees aged 50+ in an occupational risk monitoring ticket system and volunteer work.” Another programme promoted by the campaign was led by the Prison Service Occupational Medicine Clinic in Szczecin run by the Regional Prison Service Inspectorate in Szczecin. The programme was focusing on employees of all ages, with the idea that well-being at work is a lifelong process to enable sustainable working lives. It included a workshop with specialised doctors and psychologists, prevention and promotion of mental health, workplace visits aiming to inform employees about their rights in terms of working conditions and health-oriented programs covering stress at work among other psychosocial risks.
Among the priority areas of the Active+ Programme announced in 2020, several aspects should have significant impacts on the well-being of older employees in the workplace. This is particularly the case for projects for better digital inclusion, which aim to increase the digital skills of older people and the implementation of technological solutions for social inclusion. It is also the case of projects related to the preparation for old age which aim at strengthening sustainable intergenerational relations and the dissemination of a more positive image of older people.
Finally, in the 2023-2025 National Programme for the Improvement of safety and working conditions, the objectives defined include the use of digital technologies such as Virtual Reality or Artificial Intelligence to monitor working conditions as well as to study the risks associated with new forms of work and their prevention. Another positive objective provides a specific approach to older people among other groups through the development of “organizational and technical solutions to prevent the exclusion from the labour market of people with disabilities, the elderly, women and young workers, as well as solutions to help prevent psychophysical stress and maintain workability.”
Policy Officer on Employment and European Parliament Liaison
Sarah is in charge of AGE’s policy activities in the fields of employment, participation and active citizenship in old age. She also monitors EU initiatives on volunteering for older people and lifelong learning. She is responsible for the Task Force dedicated to on Employment, participation and active citizenship. Sarah also coordinates AGE’s relations with the European Parliament (EP).