Ministry of the Interior, the Netherlands: Redeployment and flexible working practices
The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations in the Hague, the Netherlands, coordinates issues relating to working conditions and labour relations within the national civil service. The civil service includes the ministries and the so-called High Councils of State, such as the States General, the Council of State and the Court of Auditors. At the end of 2004, the ministry employed 119,630 individuals. As of 2003, 38% of employees were female, and 27% were aged over 50 years of age.
The main task of the ministry is the coordination of personnel policies and management, in order to promote the quality of the civil service. The personnel policy is aimed at ‘performing better using less people and money’ (TK 29 801, No. 2, p. 5). Improving efficiency among workers is necessary because of ageing and also because it is expected that a large number of older workers will exit the workforce during the next 10 years. To guarantee good public services, the administration’s labour policy aims to increase participation in the workforce and also productivity levels. This means implementing new policies that will focus on reducing the number of early exits and on prolonging the employability of workers. Such measures are in direct contrast to previously policies, which included partial early exit arrangements, and also support internal mobility. The personnel policy is not specifically targeted at ageing workers. Instead, the policy is aimed at the continued employability of individual workers, irrespective of their age.
The original initiative
The age-aware personnel policy of the civil service, previously in place, was predominantly based on partial early exit arrangements, while policies aimed at prolonging the employability of workers appeared slightly underdeveloped. More recent changes in legislation mean that an early exit is becoming less feasible. In addition, anti-discrimination regulations prohibit the implementation of policies focused on certain age groups. As a result, working conditions must be adapted to cope with ageism issues. Improvements in human resource management styles are also required, especially in relation to career management and internal mobility. The national civil service has adopted these requirements in its general personnel policy. The combination of adapting working conditions for each employee and also good human resource management is regarded as good practice. Career development, redeployment and initiatives that support the employability of workers no longer discriminate on the basis of age. These changes provide more suitable working arrangements for older workers and are a positive development for the civil service.
Good practice today
The current age-aware personnel policy for the civil service consists of two initiatives, which address the increasing unsustainability of early exit policies:
- Individualisation of pension arrangements and the retirement age: the existing flexible pension arrangement will, in due course and in accordance with legal regulations, be replaced by an individualised life course savings scheme. The retirement age now meets individual preferences through changes in the exit procedure at the pensionable age. Employees can either request to be relieved from work at 65 years of age, or may choose to continue working based on their own flexible retirement scheme.
- Human resource management (HRM) developments: an agenda has been devised in which the potential contribution of HRM to the new government action plan is outlined. Specific attention is given to the roles of managers and employees. The quality of management is considered an essential factor in the new initiatives. Managers, to a large extent, determine and/or support the company culture; they also design and implement company policies, as well as recruit employees and contribute to their career development (Annual Social Report 2005, p. 14). It is argued that the HRM function should contribute to the flexibility and performance orientation of the work in the national civil service. Various initiatives are available to support this aim over the life course.
Competence management is one of the elements of the civil service HRM approach. There is no standard competency model for the entire national civil service. The ministries each have their own approach. In response to this, a common ‘competence management working language’ was introduced in 2004. This enables inter-ministerial coordination of the competence management cycle and cooperation in redeployment cases or other measures that are deemed necessary for individual career development. The common language contributes to the efficiency of career management initiatives and to efforts to maintain the employability of workers over the life course. In order to control the implementation of the HRM performance cycle, the number of employees who have had a performance assessment meeting at least once in a given year is surveyed. The data generated by these surveys form a benchmark for performance cycle implementation.
Further attention to employee development, mobility and redeployment is provided through the Development Counter (Ontwikkelplein) and the Mobility Bank (Mobiliteitsbank). The latter contains information on vacancies in the entire national civil service and on the required competencies for the posts, while the Development Counter provides information on the available training and development facilities, career assessments, competencies and educational initiatives offered by the national civil service. In addition to the integration of information streams and instruments at inter-ministerial level, streamlining also occurs at intra-ministry level. At the Ministry of Justice, a centre for career development has been established that integrates the previously existing regional centres. The integration is aimed at increasing the scope of the network of mobility and redeployment. As such, it contributes to the continuation of career development over the life course.
An incentive called the ‘mobility bonus’ has been introduced, focusing on labour mobility (Annual Social Report 2005, p. 51). The bonus is not given to employees who get promoted, but rather to employees who make a horizontal career shift. For older workers, a mobility bonus is payable in the case of demotion. In addition to this bonus, a mobility allowance is payable if a move is required due to redeployment, for example in the case of reorganisation (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, 2003, p. 42).
An initiative aimed at enhancing employability is set out in the agreement on working conditions, drawn up by the national civil service employers and the trade unions. It has been agreed that employees are entitled to be reimbursed for educational courses taken on their own initiative, if the course is beneficial to their work. It has also been agreed that Ministry civil servants are employees of the national civil service at large. As a result, educational interests of other ministries are taken into account, and there is no obligation to return received educational cost compensations due to a change of employer, if an employee changes jobs within the national civil service. This increases employees’ possibilities to maintain their knowledge and skills and to enhance their employability.
The personnel policy at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations aims to support the prolonged employability of all workers, irrespective of age or other conditions. Instead of primarily addressing ageing issues, the policy focuses more generally on the life course and other conditions that may affect employability.
Contact: Dr L. Lombaers, Head of Human Resources, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations
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