EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Quality in work and employment — Luxemburg

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 28 June 2007

Odette Wlodarski

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Quality of work and employment is back at the top of the European employment and social policy agenda. At the first Informal meeting of Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs held under the German Presidency on 18/20 January 2007 in Berlin, agreement was reached on a set of policy principles covering what the Presidency termed ‘good work’ – a new EU terminology following on from the ILO use of ‘decent work, and the more established EU mantra of ‘more and better jobs’.This is the contribution of Luxemburg.

1. The importance of quality in work and employment

There are different organisations that have a remit includingquality of work issues. These include:

  • l’Inspection du travail et des mines (Labour and Mines Inspectorate - Ministry of Work) is responsible for inspecting workers’ welfare, i.e. firstly workplace relations and working conditions, and secondly workers’ health and safety at work;

  • the Employment Administration (Adem) has a tripartite consultative body: the Standing Employment Committee;

  • the Association for Insurance against Accidents (Association d’Assurances contre les Accidents, AAA) is a public establishment responsible for the prevention of and compensation for work-related accidents and occupational diseases;

  • the National Public Safety Service (Service national de la Sécurité dans la Fonction publique, SNSFP) is responsible for monitoring the application of legal and regulatory safety requirements in all establishments, in particular during their set-up, construction, fitting out, occupation, acquisition and rental, as well as during major refurbishments;

  • NGOs such as the Association of Luxembourg Designated Workers (Association des travailleurs désignés luxembourgeois, ATDL) or the Association of Luxembourg Health and Safety Coordinators (Association des coordinateurs de Sécurité et Santé Luxembourg, ACSSL) which are responsible for activities to ensure protection against and the prevention of professional risks for companies and/or establishments;

  • the occupational medicine services, consisting of five external services (STM, STI, ASTF, SIST-EHL and the doctors of Ministry of Public Service (ministère de la Fonction publique) and three internal services (CFL, Arcelor, DuPont de Nemours). The occupational physician has many roles, which are not solely limited to carrying out medical examinations. In addition he must identify, assess and prevent occupational risks, and advise workers and management on the subject of occupational health;

  • the Occupational Health Division (Division de la santé au travail - Ministry of Public Safety) coordinates and checks on the functioning and organisation of occupational health services, and plays a role as a provider of information about the impact of various factors on the health of workers. The Labour Division also deals with monitoring (with the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines, Accident Insurance and the Customs Administration) all legislation relating to the protection of workers’ health and safety at work;

Those with a specific quality of employment remit include:

  • the Employment Administration (Adem) has a tripartite consultative body: the Standing Employment Committee, which monitors the situation, development and functioning of the Luxembourg employment market, and the application of legislation aimed at tackling unemployment;

  • the trade unions OGB-L, LCGB, ALEBA et CGFP deal with restructuring programmes. The first two of these trade unions have recently focused on the question of stress at work, taking an approach which is more oriented towards quality of work;

  • other associations such as Objectif Plein Emploi (OPE) (an association which supports people’s socioprofessional development, among other things by means of continuing training) and "Nei Aarbécht" (an association which offers socioprofessional reintegration activities).

Are any particular aspects of job quality (as listed above) seen as especially important?

During Luxembourg’s presidency of the EU, the idea of an integrated system for health and safety was conceived in the form of four bills for the reform of the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines (ITM), the creation of a permanent tripartite committee for work and employment and of a tripartite mediation body, the amendment of the law on workers’ health and safety at work to explicitly include psychosocial health in addition to physical welfare, and the ratification of ILO conventions and protocols. These constitute the basis of the reform process.

In addition, a voluntary agreement has been concluded between the social partners to decrease the number of work accidents over the next five years.

Have any major initiatives been taken by any of the interested parties, either separately or together, with respect to quality in work and employment?

Following the survey on occupational stress in Luxembourg (see question 3), OGB L and the Ligue d’Hygiène Mentale (the League for Mental Health) have joined forces and will be offering a consultation service on stress at work from 1 April 2007. With this new service, the first task will be to identify what the main stress factors are for the person concerned, and to see if there is a way to eliminate or reduce them, for example by settling a conflict or changing the way the person’s professional life is organised. Since stress is experienced differently by each individual, the next task is to carry out a cognitive reevaluation of the situation, and to help the person to develop their own resources, on the mental level, for example, by developing new thought patterns, on the physical level by means of relaxation techniques, and on the behavioural level by improving self-affirmation. It is also important to help the person to achieve a better balance between professional life and private life.

2. Career and employment security

There is no specific concern at national level. The Minister for Work and Employment refers to the European policy regarding the topic flexicurity. "Flexicurity" belongs in the wider context of Luxembourg’s presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2005. The Minister for Work and Employment, François Biltgen, who was then President of the Council of European Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs, together with the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Vladimir Špidla, launched the Restructuring Forum, in Brussels on 23 June 2005. The forum followed on from the Informal Council Meeting which was held in Luxembourg on 7 and 8 April 2005 between all the European employment ministers. The objective of these two meetings was to launch debate on the phenomenon of restructuring, and to develop tools and toolboxes which could be used to anticipate and manage change better.

Within this context "flexicurity" is one of the Informal Council Meeting’s main conclusions to be used as the basis for the future development of a discussion and exchange platform between the European institutions, the governments of Member States, the regional and local authorities, and the various industrial actors. The idea is to substantiate the concept of "flexicurity" (flexibility security) and to gradually move from "job security" to "employment security".

In your national context, is it likely to be helpful in promoting a new consensus regarding positive labour market and social policy reforms, or is there a risk of it becoming more of a verbal compromise between different interests?

Bill 5611 has arisen from the agreements reached on April 2006 by the Tripartite Coordination Committee, and alongside measures to promote employment it contains a series of measures relating to social security and the environment. It was passed on 20 December 2006 and aims to reduce the current risks of marginalisation amongst young job seekers, especially those lacking skills (over ¾ of young people under the age of 26 registered with ADEM have no qualifications) by offering them genuine prospects of long-term employment in more concrete form.

The objective of employment policies cannot be to have to pay full unemployment benefit, which is insecure in terms of both amount and duration, but to integrate or reintegrate job-seekers into the employment market as quickly as possible.

The help offered by the public services, ADEM among them, needs to vary according to the individual needs of job-seekers, various categories of whom can be distinguished:

  • those who leave school without any qualification and who primarily need to be reoriented into education or initial apprenticeship;

  • those whose profile basically matches the requirements of the job market and who are looking for corresponding job opportunities;

  • those who can boost their chances of finding employment in the short or medium term with a slight amount of assistance, for instance by refining their job-seeking methods;

  • those in whom ADEM identifies shortcomings which mean that they need personalised support and monitoring in order to enhance their medium or long-term employability;

  • those experiencing difficulty finding work for reasons unrelated to the economic situation, and who can be steered towards socio-economic activities of the kind defined in the bill, which will contribute to re-establishing them in full employment.

3. Health and well being

The issue of stress was the subject of a survey commissioned by the Independent Trade Union Confederation – Luxembourg (OGB-L) and the “Ligue luxembourgeoise d’Hygiène mentale”. The job of carrying out the survey was entrusted to the Luxembourg consultancy firm STIMULUS, which has recognised expertise in the area of stress in companies, in April 2005.

The objectives of this study of stress were to evaluate the reality of stress (and of anxio-depressive problems) amongst employees in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and to identify the population groups that are most affected, but also to identify the main sources of stress and their impact on employees as a function of the sector in which they work, the workers’ origins and their sex. The survey, which was carried out on a representative sample of employees, showed that 20.9% of employees in the Grand Duchy suffer from high levels of stress.

Following this survey, OGB-L and the “Ligue d’Hygiène mentale“ will be offering a consultation service on stress at work from 1 April 2007. The issue of mental health (including stress) will from now on have a basis in law (code du travail, law of 11 august 2006).

The main action against back problems undertaken in Luxembourg is that of the “Association d’assurance contre les accidents” (AAA - the Association for Insurance against Accidents). The AAA offers free training for the prevention of back problems to its members in the industrial and health sectors. The training programme includes the following points: human anatomy and physiology, movement and posture (principles of physical protection and economy of effort), ergonomic advice, demonstration of techniques according to the needs of the company, and toning and relaxation exercises.

OGB-L: Stress survey (not solely for manual work):

The special case of cross-border workers in Luxembourg has had an impact on work accidents. Cross-border workers represent 41% of the working population and are employed mainly in the service industry, where work is generally less physical. In total, 22% of work accidents in Luxembourg are accidents that take place on the way to or from work.

How far is the health of older workers seen to be an issue in relation to the debate about increasing the effective retirement age?

Currently, Luxembourg is in the process of creating a policy on integrating older workers, and is not giving priority to the health questions associated with the extending of careers. The OECD, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have criticised Luxembourg for its extremely low rate of employment amongst the active population aged between 50 and 65 years.

Whilst the government subscribes to the OECD’s diagnosis, it is not able to follow all its recommendations. The Luxembourg context must first be analysed in detail, in particular taking individualised solutions into account, for example for those who have worked in difficult conditions throughout their working lives. In the opinion of the minister, François Biltgen, legislators must support this specific approach by placing more emphasis on improving overall working conditions. In this context, the introduction of specific actions in different companies will enable stress factors and mobbing to be eliminated. Quality of work is certainly one of the key factors which encourages older workers to wish to continue working.

The emphasis should therefore be placed on maintaining employment under conditions adapted to a person’s age. Adapting conditions could include a more generalised discussion between government and social partners about part-time working, life-savings accounts, and flexible systems combining active and passive regimes, i.e. part-time work and pensions.

The problem of retirement in Luxembourg is less discussed than elsewhere in Europe due to the fact that cross-border workers return to their country of origin when they reach retirement age.

How important are workplace relations for well-being? Is the main focus on violence, harassment or abuse, or are there other, more general, concerns?

Two of the best understood themes in the area of well-being at work in Luxembourg are stress and harassment.

The Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies has introduced firstly a bill amending the act amended on 17 June 1994 on workers’ health and safety at work, and a proposal for a bill relating to protection against mobbing in workplace relations. The authors of the bill (the Ministry of Work and Employment) plan to provide more detail about the concept of health. They want to insert a number of general articles into the act on health and safety at work concerning, among other subjects, the risk of mobbing or sexual harassment. The proposal for a bill is confined to a legal provision relating to mobbing, and the authors have indicated that they would be in favour of a specific piece of legislation which, like the act of 26 May 2000 on protection against sexual harassment in workplace relations, would have to be integrated into workplace regulations and conditions. The rationale for this is that, like sexual harassment, mobbing is a form of harassment which causes workers distress while they are doing their jobs.

Under the act of 11 August 2006 containing measures to combat smoking, employers are required to protect the physical and mental health of workers, notably by ensuring working conditions that are ergonomically adequate, by avoiding repetitive work as far as possible, by organising work in an appropriate manner, and by taking the measures necessary to ensure that workers are protected effectively against tobacco fumes resulting from other people’s smoking (art. 16).

4. Skills development

In the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Continuing Professional Training (CPT) is regulated by the amended law of 22 June 1999, which came into force on 1 January 2000.

The law is based on the principles of supporting businesses in the steps they are taking, and supporting the functioning of Continuing Professional Training. It enables companies to benefit from state financial assistance for all investments in this area. This public cofinancing can either take the form of direct aid of 10% net of tax of the amount invested by the company in CPT or of a tax rebate equivalent to 10% of the amount invested by the company in CPT, set against the company’s income tax liability.

Moreover, the law of 22 June 1999 gives precise definition of the objectives of Continuing Professional Training (CPT):

  • - adapting the worker’s or company director’s qualifications by bringing their skills into line with relevant techniques and technologies of organisation, production and marketing;

  • - retraining the worker and company director with a view to entry into another line of work;

  • - ensuring the advancement of workers by preparing them for more demanding tasks or positions or for greater responsibility, and by making full use of their skills and areas of potential currently being used incompletely or not at all.

The law of 22 June 1999 also contains clauses relating to the activities of the manager of a continuing professional training organisation.

Other organisations have set up specific training programmes:

  • the Chamber of Commerce Training Institute (Institut de Formation de la Chambre de Commerce, IFCC) has so far trained 1,200 designated workers (experts in the area of health and safety at work) and 260 worksite coordinators;

  • the Building Sector Training Institute (Institut de Formation Sectoriel du Bâtiment, IFSB);

  • the Institute of Economic and Social Training (Institut de Formation économique et sociale, IFES) trains personnel delegates under the patronage of the main trade unions, the OGB-L and the LCGB.

Has the fact that demand for manual skills is falling, and demand for non-manual skills rising, been reflected in the type of support provided by the educational and training systems in your country?

Yes, there has been an observed increase in the number of training programmes in the tertiary sector. A concrete example is that of the Chambre des Métiers (Chamber of Trades). This public institution was created to look after the interests of small craft businesses. Today, the training programmes offered by the Chamber are less technical than before. They are increasingly service-oriented. Moreover, all of these new training programmes fall into the general use category, and cover the following areas: human resources, marketing and commerce, purchasing and logistics, law, accounting and financial management, communication, languages, computing, etc.

To what extent are employers, trade unions and government working together – at policy or company level - to address these or related concerns, such as the better integration of young workers, or the retention of older workers?

The European Week for Safety and Health at Work 2006, which was devoted to young workers, served as the starting-point for various campaigns in Luxembourg. The Ministry of Work, via the Labour and Mines Inspectorate (ITM), and the Ministry for Social Security, via the “Association d’assurance contre les accidents” (AAA - the Association for Insurance against Accidents), developed actions directed at young workers. During the European Week (23-27 October 2006), they held an awareness-raising campaign via Internet (website, in schools and in the press. Following this, they took part in the Student Fair (9-10 November) with an information stand and the organisation of a round table. The AAA, in conjunction with the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training, also organised a competition on health and safety at work, aimed at students.

In parallel with this, the Employment Minister, François Biltgen, spoke about his policy to encourage older workers, stated that efforts needed to be made to ensure that older workers remain active and that companies, and especially younger workers, benefit from their skills and experience acquired over the course of their working life.

5. Work life balance

Work-life balance is a topical issue in Luxembourg. It is mostly approached within the context of the policy on equal opportunities for men and women. Thus the Ministry for Equal Opportunities gives technical and financial support to companies that set up initiatives to help women achieve a balance between work and their private lives. The evaluation of a mentoring project for women employed in management positions showed that 63% of women who have had mentoring have found ways of achieving a better work-life balance. All the mentors who were involved in the project said that the women in question had realised the importance of finding a balance between work and private life.

Amongst the factors limiting women’s employment, difficulties in reconciling family life and working life are often stressed. To overcome these difficulties, the authorities have also undertaken to pursue and step up the efforts made over the last few years to promote the provision of care schemes for young children. For example, the "maisons-relais" are institutions which look after children of school age or below, and which are characterised by extended opening hours and flexibility with regard to care hours.

As far as homeworking is concerned, in a survey by the ILReS entitled "Households", carried out in 2004 among Luxembourg households, only 4% of people questioned say that they are involved with homeworking. Companies seem more inclined to mention distance working of this kind: 12% of them said that homeworking was practised there. The sector most involved was the computing sector, where a third of companies practise homeworking. However, this phenomenon remains very limited in companies, since it only concerns a very small number of employees. Incidentally, teleworking has no legal basis in Luxembourg.

"Internet au sein des entreprises luxembourgeoises en 2004, Gouvernement du Grand-Duché, service de l’eLuxembourg, 2005".

Odette Wlodarski, Prevent

Annex – Country data

Place of work and work organisation EU27 LU
q11f. Working at company/organisation premises 72.8 76.9
q11g. Teleworking from home 8.3 7.8
q11j. Dealing directly with people who are not employees (e.g. customers) 62.4 67.3
q11k. Working with computers 45.5 58.8
q11l. Using internet/email for work 36.0 46.1
q20a_a. Short repetitive tasks of <1m 24.7 26.7
q20a_b. Short repetitive tasks of <10m 39.0 34.8
q20b_a. Working at very high speed 59.6 56.8
q20b_b. Working to tight deadlines 61.8 56.3
q21a. Pace of work dependent on colleagues 42.2 43.4
q21b. Pace of work dependent on direct demands from customers, etc. 68.0 64.1
q21c. Pace of work dependent on numerical production/performance targets 42.1 50.5
q21d. Pace of work dependent on automated equipment/machine 18.8 14.7
q21e. Pace of work dependent on boss 35.7 35.3
q22a. Have to interrupt a task in order to take on an unforeseen task 32.7 42.1
q24a. Can choose/change order of tasks 63.4 71.4
q24b. Can choose/change methods of work 66.9 73.3
q24c. Can choose/change speed of work 69.2 76.0
q25a. Can get assistance from colleagues if asked 67.6 71.6
q25b. Can get assistance from superiors/boss if asked 56.1 59.0
q25c. Can get external assistance if asked 31.6 29.7
q25d. Has influence over choice of working partners 24.2 28.2
q25e. Can take break when wishes 44.6 59.0
q25f. Has enough time to get the job done 69.6 74.0
q26a. Task rotation 43.7 41.4
q26b. Teamwork 55.2 64.9
q31. Immediate boss is a woman 24.5 19.5
Job content and training    
q23a. Meeting precise quality standards 74.2 73.1
q23b. Assessing quality of own work 71.8 77.9
q23c. Solving unforeseen problems 80.8 84.4
q23d. Monotonous tasks 42.9 37.2
q23e. Complex tasks 59.4 63.1
q23f. Learning new things 69.1 75.2
q25j. Able to apply own ideas in work 58.4 64.1
q27. Job-skills match: need more training 13.1 14.2
q27. Job-skills match: correspond well 52.3 48.4
q27. Job-skills match: could cope with more demanding duties 34.6 37.4
q28a1. Has undergone paid-for training in previous 12 months 26.1 37.0
Violence, harrassment and discrimination    
q29a. Threats of physical violence 6.0 5.7
q29b. Physical violence from colleagues 1.8 1.8
q29c. Physical violence from other people 4.3 4.4
q29d. Bullying/harassment 5.1 11.3
q29f. Unwanted sexual attention 1.8 1.5
q29g. Age discrimination 2.7 3.7
Physical work factors    
q10a. Vibrations 24.2 18.8
q10b. Noise 30.1 23.4
q10c. High temperatures 24.9 23.1
q10d. Low temperatures 22.0 21.7
q10e. Breathing in smoke, fumes, powder or dust, etc. 19.1 16.4
q10f. Breathing in vapours such as solvents and thinners 11.2 7.3
q10g. Handling chemical substances 14.5 10.5
q10h. Radiation 4.6 3.3
q10i. Tobacco smoke from other people 20.1 17.2
q10j. Infectious materials 9.2 9.8
q11a. Tiring or painful positions 45.5 43.6
q11b. Lifting or moving people 8.1 6.8
q11c. Carrying or moving heavy loads 35.0 25.6
q11d. Standing or walking 72.9 64.7
q11e. Repetitive hand or arm movements 62.3 54.1
q11m. Wearing personal protective clothing or equipment 34.0 27.9
Information and communication    
q30b. Consulted about changes in work organisation, etc. 47.1 46.0
q30c. Subject to regular formal assessment of performance 40.0 37.9
q12. Well-informed about health and safety risks 83.1 75.6
q32. Consider health or safety at risk because of work 28.6 29.8
q33. Work affects health 35.4 34.4
q33a_a… hearing problems 7.2 5.8
q33a_b... problems with vision 7.8 10.0
q33a_c... skin problems 6.6 5.6
q33a_d… backache 24.7 26.9
q33a_e… headaches 15.5 16.7
q33a_f… stomach ache 5.8 10.4
q33a_g… muscular pains 22.8 23.8
q33a_h… respiratory difficulties 4.7 3.6
q33a_i… heart disease 2.4 1.8
q33a_j...injury(ies) 9.7 9.5
q33a_k...stress 22.3 26.6
q33a_l...overall fatigue 22.5 23.5
q33a_m...sleeping problems 8.7 11.5
q33a_n...allergies 4.0 5.1
q33a_o...anxiety 7.8 10.6
q33a_p... Irritability 10.5 15.3
q35. Able to do same job when 60 58.2 54.4
q34a_d. Absent for health problems in previous year 22.9 31.7
q34b_ef. Average days health-related absence in previous year 4.6 5.4
Work and family life    
q18. Working hours fit family/social commitments well or very well 79.4 83.4
q19. Contacted about work outside normal working hours 22.1 17.0
ef4c. Caring for and educating your children every day for an hour or more 28.8 43.8
ef4d. Cooking and housework 46.4 47.9
Job satisfaction    
q36. Satisfied or very satisfied with working conditions 82.3 86.5
q37a_ef. I might lose my job in the next 6 months 13.7 5.5
q37b_ef. I am well paid for the work I do 43.2 57.8
q37c_ef. My job offers good prospects for career advancement 31.0 40.5
Structure of workforce    
q2d_ef. Seniority (mean years) 9.7 11.0
Working time    
q8a_ef. Mean usual weekly working hours 38.6 38.2
q8b. % usually working five days per week 65.1 78.0
q9a. % with more than one job 6.2 5.1
q13_ef. Daily commuting time (return, in minutes) 41.6 39.4
q14e_ef. Long working days 16.9 11.1
q16a_a. Work same number of hours each day 58.4 64.0
q16a_b. Work same number of days each week 74.0 84.1
q16a_c. Work fixed starting and finishing times 60.7 68.0
q16a_d. Work shifts 17.3 13.9
q17a. % with less flexible schedules 65.3 65.1
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