EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

IKEA, Denmark: Comprehensive approach


Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Target Groups: 
Other non-manualProfessional/managerialSkilled ManualUnskilled Manual
Initiative Types: 
Comprehensive approach


Organisational background


IKEA A/S, a leading furniture retailer in Denmark, strives to obtain a culture of equal opportunity, fair treatment, social responsibility and diversity in its staff. Consequently, in some situations, it is necessary to launch special programmes for certain target groups.

IKEA was founded in Sweden in 1943. The first department store was opened in Sweden in 1958. A department store was opened in Norway in 1963 and in 1969 the first department store opened in Denmark. Today, IKEA is a worldwide business in furniture retail sales, design and production. In Denmark, IKEA operates three department stores in Copenhagen and Århus and a small outlet in Odense, employing a total of 1,200 people, of whom 46% are women.

The age distribution is as follows:

  • 8% <20 years
  • 42% 20-29
  • 35% 29-44
  • 8% 44-54
  • 5% 54-64
  • 2% 64-99

Description of the initiative

At IKEA, the personnel policy stresses diversity and equal treatment in all respects, e.g. gender, ethnicity and age. The goal is to make the composition of the sales staff mirror the composition of the local community, thus the mixture of employees will be different in the three Danish department stores (and equally so in other countries). The social dialogue is maintained through the representatives of the unions that cover sales and maintenance respectively.

In spite of the current shortage of labour in the Danish labour market, IKEA is able to cover its demands, although this takes somewhat longer than two years ago. It is still an ambition to have as great a diversity of employees as possible, but the situation has led IKEA to target its recruiting information towards two special groups: people with little or no prior connection to the labour market and older workers who have left the labour market or are due to leave within a short period.

The first group is reached through the work test centres of the municipalities. Potential employees in this group are offered a special trainee programme and after evaluation they are offered employment on ordinary terms. This is considered a socially responsible contribution to society with mutual benefit for the company and the employee.

The older workers, whether on or off the labour market, are special to IKEA in two senses: firstly, their percentage of the staff does not correspond with their percentage of the population; secondly, they have to be addressed in a particular way because the IKEA furniture store is not the most obvious next step in their career. The opportunity has to be communicated, visualised and demonstrated to them. IKEA has found a practical solution to this: advertisements for new staff in the members’ magazine of DaneAge Association, a Danish national senior citizens’ organisation. This advertising has developed into an informal cooperative relationship: Every three months, members of the local DaneAge committees are invited to IKEA for a seminar consisting of a light meal, a lecture and a tour. At each seminar, IKEA subsequently receives about twenty applications for jobs.

In order to keep the company profitable, wages are kept at the average level of the retail sector. To attract employees and retain them, IKEA offers other benefits and emphasises flexible working hours. Each employee, whether single, parent or older, can choose any number of working hours, covering from one day up to a week. This method makes it possible to have the working time placed within the hours when the department store is open, i.e. between 9am and 10pm, Monday through Saturday. This allows the company to ensure that all positions are staffed adequately at all times. In addition to flexibility in working hours, IKEA allows employees to take time off from work in the case of illness of a child, spouse or parent.

Good practice today

These flexible working practices are good examples of general arrangements from which older workers benefit, in that their needs for a reduced work load and increased leisure activities are met. Other examples of arrangements that similarly promote the retention and commitment of IKEA senior employees are:

  • offering a body massage twice a month;
  • a course in healthy lifestyle comprising a personal diet programme, and advice on losing (or gaining) weight;
  • assistance to stop smoking, handle stress or cope with situations of conflict;
  • discount on fees to a series of fitness centres;
  • extended health insurance coverage providing medical treatment and rehabilitation therapy in private clinics to promote quick recovery and return to the workplace after illness;
  • a local project promoting good working postures through colleague-to-colleague guidance in standing, sitting and lifting correctly.

In addition to these general arrangements, two programmes directed towards older employees are:

  1. The length of notice of termination of employment is increased by one month per year of employment for employees who are 40 years of age or older. The maximum increase is six months and is in addition to the length of notice according to the law.
  2. After ten years of employment, employees going on pension are entitled to a period of six months of reduced working time with full payment prior to their retirement. This helps to ease the transition from work to retirement by allowing leisure activities to gradually take the place of work.

Until now IKEA has not utilised any of the public arrangements for the retention of older employees. It is currently beyond IKEA’s philosophy and position to draw upon such public means.


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