During the project, the role of industrial relations in the field of workplace accommodation to employees with reduced work capacity was studied and action research with social partners in Estonia, Hungary and Poland was carried out with the aim of discussing the current state of the topic and defining next steps of influencing work accommodation via industrial relations.
The conclusions made based on the research and case studies are, on the one hand, related to industrial relations and social partners actions, and on the other hand, to employment policy – both equally important.
Firstly, in all studied countries, the collective bargaining plays rather modest role in overall employment relations, the social partners lack knowledge and experiences in managing reduced work capacity and aging at work place, and different economic and employment related issues are competing for their attention. Therefore, the topic of work accommodation has not been relevant for social partners, and thus has not been in the agenda of national level social dialogue. As a conclusion, improving their knowledge about the topic would be the first and most important step to support their motivation and readiness to deal with the issue. This should be done in every country internally between social partners and other relevant stakeholders, but in wider EU context, the support from EU level social partners is as important and they could take a stronger position in supporting national social partners in developing strategies on how to put work accommodation into collective bargaining agendas.
Thus, stronger labour market integration of disabled and older people could be achieved by supporting social partners to negotiate reasonable work accommodations and EU social partners should be the key parties raising awareness and spreading the knowledge and good practices of work accommodation between different member states.
To better demonstrate why the support for social partners is important, the complexity of accommodation as collective action at the workplace is shown in the figure below.
Secondly, the coverage and eligibility of intervention, both central government policy and collective employment relations instruments currently differ for disabled and old people, being inclined towards people with disabilities. Also, the information on work accommodation, what measures constitute work accommodation and how it could be done is lacking or is described too abstract and general. Thus, the concept and possibilities of work accommodation are unclear to both – employer and employees. Moreover, evaluations regarding the actual impact of designed measures aimed at motivating the employment of disabled and older populations in general, or work accommodation, is lacking.
Thus, employment policy and industrial relations responses should be designed in the way that motivate and support work accommodation for both disabled and ageing workers, while mutual learning and peer reviews are required to collect and design support measures. Counter factual impact assessment of different types of interventions are necessary to support social partners and governments in designing and implementing effective support measures.
The aim of the project was also to find some more tangible measures to improve the situation.
- In Estonia, the proposed solution would be integrated website or interlinked website that would reproduce the most crucial information on work accommodation and mediate experience stories of employers and employees negotiating and implementing accommodations.
- In Hungary, it was proposed that trade unions, employer organisations and civil organisations could compile job register that would match the jobs can perform to the different types of illnesses and disabilities
- In Poland, number of awareness issues were raised that social parents considered need to be addresses, however no specific measures how to improve knowledge were not proposed.