EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

CTF Social Health Services, Spain: Training and development


Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Health and social work
Target Groups: 
Initiative Types: 
developmentetcFlexible working practicesTraining


Organisational background


A cooperative society in the home care sector, CTF Social Health Services has been in operation for over 20 years, in accordance with the Catalan government law on cooperatives. It operates within the social health area, offering home care and home help to people with disabilities and also family support services. It serves more than 3,500 households in Barcelona and the surrounding areas.

The cooperative is managed by an associates’ committee, which elects the board of directors, which in turn elects the executive committee. The departments reporting directly to the executive committee are: Human Resources; Administration and Finance; Projects and Centres; Home Care and Quality.

At present, the cooperative employs 541 workers, of whom 124 are cooperative associates. Of the 541 workers, 34 are part of the central services, including administration and management. From 2004 to 2005, the workforce increased from 400 to 541 employees, as the cooperative acquired an important new home care contract which also increased the cooperative’s financial turnover by 33%. All home care workers complete the relevant course of study, which is officially recognised by the employment department of the Catalan government.

Some 98% of the cooperative’s employees are women aged between 35 and 60 years old. The average age of employees is 46 years. A total of 99 workers are aged over 50 years, representing 18.3% of staff. The average age of the member owners is 49 years and 43 years for non-associated workers.

The Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO) is represented in the company. It participates in implementing human resource policies. Currently, ageism issues are not a major factor for CC.OO within this cooperative.

The original initiative

Overall, three types of policies relating to an ageing workforce have been introduced in the past by CTF. The first measure focused on prioritising older workers in internal promotion – in both caring and administrative tasks. Since 2002, two new activities, telephone assistance and additional administrative tasks, have been offered as a form of promotion, but they can only be availed of if vacancies in these areas arise.

The second measure involved training policies. Up to 2002, training was not formalised, but, since then, the CTF planning bureau has developed a training policy for the entire workforce. During 2004, a total of 9,725 hours of training were provided. Each worker received an average of 20.8 hours of training. In all, some 72.5% of employees received training throughout 2005.

The third measure was based on gradual retirement, in accordance with the current Law 35/2002, which offers employees aged 60 years and older the possibility of reducing their working hours by up to 85%. This flexible retirement policy facilitates intergenerational transfer of knowledge and experience. The policy was adopted by the company in 2005, when two contracts were put in place.

Good practice today

CTF’s human resource (HR) policy prioritises quality in home care and, in this respect, a mature age is considered to be an important asset. In practice, the HR department believes that female workers older than 45 years have the most suitable profile for carrying out the care work, which consists of providing assistance for people with varying degrees of disability.

To sustain and develop the competences of the workforce, three initiatives were implemented: prioritisation of age in internal mobility and changing to a new activity, a systematic training plan, and a gradual retirement scheme.

In the process of internal mobility, age is a positive factor. Whenever a new position is created, or an existing one becomes vacant in the care sector of the company, an internal placement is offered first. In the process of evaluating the competences, training and abilities of the candidates, age is a decisive factor, as part of the HR policy. The HR policy defines the worker profile under the following criteria: personal maturity, professional experience, emotional stability, ease of communication, the sense of security a worker can offer to the client, motivation, and the importance of the type of workplace for the employee. The typical profile of female workers aged 45 years and over is drawn up under these criteria.

In keeping with this policy of internal mobility, changes to new, non-caring activities are also considered. The majority of staff, about 92%, work in the area of direct home care, while jobs in services management, telephone assistance and administration – all of which are based at head office – account for 8% of all positions. When there is a vacancy in services management or administration, it is offered to home care employees first, in which case age is a priority.

Every year CTF defines a training programme – with the participation of the executive committee and the trade union – that is based on the analysis and identification of training needs within the services. The training and development plan offered to employees is adjusted to meet the capabilities of workers, due to a high average age of over 45 years. Moreover, about 20% of workers are over 50 years old.

The training programme aims to address the needs and demands of each area of work and the constantly increasing competence and specialisation level required in home care services. The objective is to improve the workers’ contribution to the job and their ability to adapt to the needs of the groups with whom they work. The training plan is revised each year to take into account the needs of the different target groups and the types of participation in home care.

In the context of the third initiative and the current Law 35/2002, employees aged 60 years or older can reduce their working hours by between 25% and 85% through gradual retirement. If employees choose to avail of this opportunity, they will maintain the same wage and social welfare benefits (in proportion to the number of hours worked and topped up by the retirement pension). However, the company must hire someone to work the number of hours that the older employee gives up until the older employee retires.

The CTF human resource policy is based on the fact that ageing is an inevitable factor and so it must develop internal strategies to deal with ageism within a period of 10 years. CTF considers that the practices implemented in this respect are successful and should be continued. The cooperative wishes to develop the training programme further to adapt to ageism issues. It is expected that the numbers availing of the gradual retirement scheme will increase in the future, due to the increasing average age of employees, and because this kind of contract is also becoming available in other sectors.

Further information

Contact: Carolina Gonzalez and Sílvia Vendrell, Human Resources Department



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