EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Pikolin, Spain: Health and well-being


Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Textiles and leather
Target Groups: 
Skilled ManualUnskilled Manual
Initiative Types: 
Ergonomics/job designExit PolicyFlexible working practicesHealth and well-beingWage Policy


Organisational background


Pikolin, a family enterprise, is Spain’s market leader in the production and marketing of sleep products, such as mattresses and bed-frames, maintaining a 35% dominant share of the market. Based in Zaragoza, capital of the Aragon province in north-east Spain, it represents an important company for the region. The Zaragoza plant, measuring 180,000 square metres, is the largest warehouse in Europe for this type of production. In 2005, its annual turnover reached €183 million.

The company also has branches in France and Portugal. Its factory in Zaragoza manufactures products for the Spanish and Portuguese markets. In recent years, the company has invested in research and development, such as technological innovation and the implementation of new technologies in the production process.

Pikolin employs between 1,500 and 1,600 workers, depending on production needs. Some 80% of the workers are employed on long-term contracts. About 1,000 people work at the Zaragoza plant: 900 in production and 100 in administration and other services.

The average age of employees is 40 years, with 25% of employees aged over 45 years and 10% aged over 55 years. The older workers have been employed by the company for 25 to 30 years, having spent most of their careers there. Some 90% of employees are male and only 10% are female, half of whom work in the manufacturing area.

Pikolin underlines the value of work experience within the company in its collective agreement. Older workers benefit equally from training opportunities and enjoy the same recognition for their work.

Negotiation and consultation takes place between the company and representatives of three trade unions: the Trade Union Confederation of Workers’ Commissions (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras, CC.OO), the Aragon trade union organisation (Organizacion sindical de trabajadores de Aragon, OSTA) and the General Union of Workers (Confederación General del Trabajo, UGT). The trade union delegates and the prevention officers are members of the company’s health and safety committee. Current legislation guarantees employee participation in the design, adoption and implementation of risk preventive measures.

The original initiative

Since the approval, in 1995, of the law on the prevention of occupational hazards, the company ensures regular monitoring of workers’ health in relation to the specific risks to which they are exposed in their work. As a result of this health policy and the current workforce profile (35% of employees are aged over 45 years and have been working for a long time with the company), Pikolin applies the systematic redeployment of workers to a position of a similar level which is more adapted to their physical requirements. In practice, older workers are most often the beneficiaries of these measures.

As a result of the current Law 35/2002, Pikolin has developed a flexible retirement policy and offers relief contracts to employees. As part of this policy, the company promotes the transfer of knowledge and experience from older to younger workers, thereby also enhancing the position of younger workers. Employees who wish to reduce their working hours at 60 years of age are partly replaced by young workers – usually temporary staff who have previously worked for the company – which facilitates the transfer of knowledge and experience. The company recognises and values highly the knowledge and experience held by older workers.

Good practice today

Pikolin maintains the employability of its staff by implementing specific health and retirement policies from which older workers, in particular, can benefit. In an economic context, where workforce reductions and early retirement are increasingly being used to manage staff numbers and to reduce costs, the following initiatives are part of a human resource policy which recognises the value of older workers.

In accordance with current legislation and to accommodate the profile of workers, Pikolin applies a staff health policy that greatly benefits older workers. The health policy links health care and improving the well-being of workers with redeployment to a new position, where workers receive training to help them adapt to the new work, while acquiring new skills and knowledge. The application of this health policy was motivated by the law on the prevention of occupational hazards.

The company has its own medical team, consisting of two doctors specialising in occupational medicine assisted by two medical technicians, and its own risk prevention office. An annual health check is obligatory for the entire workforce. Employees in positions with a higher risk factor, such as those working directly with chemical products or on loading bays, are monitored more frequently. Based on this assessment, the company attempts to improve ergonomics by adjusting the workplace to the physical condition of employees and also encourages the redeployment of workers to new jobs, in order to eliminate particular work risks to the employee’s health.

No statistics are available on the exact percentage of employees who have benefited from these measures throughout the years, but the figures are rising as the workforce grows older. Both the workers and the company have positively evaluated the measures in place. At present, redeployment to other workplaces has become a common practice in the company, to the satisfaction of human resource managers and employees. This policy has resulted in the improved health and well-being of employees, decreased absence from work due to illnesses, and a reduction in early retirement due to incapacity.

No research has been carried out on the effects of the policy on the company’s productivity. However, the human resource managers report that this way of working allows the company to benefit from the professional experience of employees who have been with the company for a long time. The company values highly the experience that older workers have, and the improved workplace mobility helps to keep them active and reduces health risks.

With regard to the policy on gradual retirement, Pikolin has been applying a retirement policy based on relief contracts, which has facilitated knowledge transfer from older to younger workers. Employees aged 60 years or older can reduce their working hours by between 25% and 85%. If employees choose to make use of this option, they 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.

Since 2002, a total of 82 workers have taken advantage of the gradual retirement scheme, and working relationships between older and younger employees are reported to be very good.

The design, adoption and implementation of both measures has been negotiated and agreed upon between trade union delegates and the company, and the measures will continue to operate in future years.

Further information

Contact: Carlos Bascuas, Human Resource Manager; Julio Canales: Department of Occupational Health



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