Belgian Professional Experience Fund: adapting small and large companies to ageing since 2004

AGE Secretary General, Anne-Sophie Parent, participated in a conference on 3 April 2014 celebrating the 10 year’s anniversary of the Belgian Professional Experience Fund. This fund is designed to subsidise companies for specific measures that support older employees. Surprisingly, the majority of companies supported by the Fund are small and medium-sized companies.

Anne Himpens, the coordinator of the fund explained the slow start of the fund’s work in 2004, when ageing was not yet a largely debated issue. The fund offers subsidies for trainings, the adaptation of workplaces or other measures to retain older employees in the workforce. In a fist attempt to reach out, the Fund tried to contact the social secretariats who manage companies’ payrolls and organisms controlling protection and prevention standards in workplaces. This had only a limited impact. After 2006, the Fund worked with the organisations of professional sectors, organised in collective bargaining mechanisms, thus reaching out both to employees and employers. This increased the leverage of the Fund leading to the financing of 1.600 projects concerning over 20,000 older workers in companies of all sizes.

Once a company asks for funding, the Fund works with sector representatives to assess the situation: often, this already provides valuable advice to a company. According to its diagnosis, the Fund finances trainings or the purchase of accessible equipment. A special attention is paid that the personnel is also trained to use the new equipment. Trainings can focus on ergonomics, adaptation to change or the preservation of a certain training level.

Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General of AGE Platform Europe, gave a keynote speech, commending the efforts that the fund has led to adapt workplaces. While employers often complain about automatic salary increases linked to seniority, it should be highlighted that older employers contribute a lot of experience, very high social skills and a long-term vision to a company – which are key for a company’s success. She also highlighted the long way that still has to be gone in order to include older women in the labour market and to close the gender pension gap.

For further questions or remarks, please contact Philippe Seidel, Junior Policy Officer on Employment and Social Protection, philippe.seidel@age-platform.eu, +32 2 233 83 31

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