City of Malmö education department, Sweden: flexible working practices
The City of Malmö’s education department is the largest employer in the city, with around 19,300 employees. It employs 3,518 teachers, of whom 70% are women and almost 14% (476 employees) are aged over 60 years. The department’s human resource (HR) policy, which it considers strategically very important, focuses on encouraging greater communication between managers and employees. It is also concerned with securing recruitment. The policy includes a special provision that aims to encourage greater age diversity and integration among age groups. The department emphasises that a blend of values from different generations can create dynamic workplaces that promote development and renewal.
The social dialogue works well and the relationship between the department and trade unions is characterised by cooperation.
The original initiative
In the late 1990s, the City of Malmö’s education department had problems recruiting teachers, 28% of whom were due to retire within 10 years. As a result, it introduced an initiative to use the skills of teachers aged 60 years and over and to encourage them to stay until the regular retirement age. The initiative aimed to create suitable roles for these teachers and to bring their tasks into line with their needs. It consisted of the following measures:
- reduction of classroom work, often the most stressful aspect of the job, to 50% or less;
- replacing classroom work with real, necessary and qualified tasks. It was important not to assign pseudo-tasks. The replacement tasks included: library duty, developing workshops, school administration, responsibility for environmental issues, mentoring new teachers, school development, developing colleagues’ skills, internal consultations. Teachers were usually trained for their new tasks.
The initiative’s most obvious result is that Malmö’s education department no longer has a shortage of teachers. Its most important outcome for older teachers is that they are offered work that makes greater use of their skills. Employees are healthier and able to work until retirement age. It has also reassured all employees that they can work until retirement age, even if they cannot handle regular teaching work in the classroom.
Other positive effects of the initiative include:
- lower rates of absenteeism, down from 4.5% in 2002 to 3.5% in 2004;
- an increase in the quality of the schools involved in the project;
- a reversal of negative attitudes among teachers;
- positive attention from outside the department.
Good practice today
The City of Malmö’s education department wants to be perceived as a suitable employer for all age groups. As a result, it is continuing its initiative for older teachers, largely unchanged. Prompted by recruitment problems, the department aimed to reduce the number of teachers taking early retirement, by creating more favourable conditions that would encourage them to work until retirement age. Ironically, Malmö now has a surplus instead of a shortage of teachers in certain categories. However, the benefits of the initiative outweigh this reality and the emphasis is on the positive effects of the measures.
The primary focus of the initiative is to make use of older teachers’ skills and to encourage them to stay until the regular retirement age. Its target group is teachers aged between 62 to 65 years and it continues to focus on matching their roles to their needs. It is no longer a pilot project but has been incorporated into regular activities. In 2005, €750,000 was allocated to finance the measures.
The initiative has received positive attention in various contexts, from outside the education department, and has been mentioned in the media, for example, in articles in Dagens nyheter (4 March 2004) and Sydsvenska Dagbladet (31 March 2002). It has also received national attention: for instance, at a conference on work environment and the economy, the prime minister mentioned the initiative as being worthy of imitation.
Contact person: Lars Silverberg, Personnel manager, email: email@example.com