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2023 Rest leave decision: A mixed bag

by Michael Steffens and Helen Conefrey



Rest leaves are an important right to compensate colleagues for particularly difficult living conditions in third countries. The 2023 decision on Rest Leave (RL) has introduced changes on a substantial scale that will result in significant savings for the institution at the expense of expatriates and their well-being.

 

In the past the principal Rest Leave destination was Brussels however without any warning whatsoever, the EEAS has unilaterally adopted a series of NEW Rest Leave locations that will directly affect expatriate staff. It is regrettable that No discussions took place with Staff Representatives or Trade Unions on these proposed new RL destinations.

 

Colleagues in high hardship delegations must recharge their batteries and escape from the particularly challenging circumstances of certain places of work. The level of isolation is unarguably higher in hardship delegations as friends and family rarely visit. Rest leave is critical to support staff in finding the right work-life balance under strenuous working and living conditions. Rest leave is key to ensuring mental and physical health among expatriate staff.

 

The new 2023 Rest Leave Decision has brought changes in Rest Leave destinations to 35 EU Delegations based in difficult or very difficult working and living environment. It will have an impact on several hundreds of colleagues and merited being discussed in detail with social dialogue partners. USHU believes that the constant deterioration of LCA and RL will have a negative effect on the attractiveness of EU Delegations and will affect recruitment, rotation and mobility. Delegations already struggled when the Rest Leave destination was assigned to Brussels – now Rest Leave destinations include Casablanca, Istanbul and Marrakech. This has an impact on the financial allocations to expatriate staff and colleagues clearly favour destinations which allow for family reunification and where the conditions allow them to fully relax in a safe environment.

 

It is important that the calculation of Rest Leave travel ceilings is based on the use of reliable and safe airlines. Flight connections in many hardship locations are complex with some locations only served 3-4 times a week. As a result, for expatriates it becomes difficult to reroute when regional flights are regularly cancelled. The calculation of Rest Leave ceilings should take this into consideration because otherwise colleagues will have to pay additional amounts to book on reliable airlines. It is unclear what criteria have been used to change Rest Leave destinations other than the purpose of SAVING MONEY at the expense of expatriates serving in hardship conditions in third countries where many staff based in the EU would be unwilling and reluctant to work.

 

Most colleagues have a preference to be able to return to Europe for their rest leave hence the need to foresee this in the financial ceiling for Rest Leave. It is never easy to reconcile family life with the demands of a difficult or very difficult location. Several families take the very difficult decision to school their children in Europe and following the pandemic this number has potentially increased. Colleagues serving in a hardship country need to be able to meet up with their children frequently. USHU wants EU Delegations to remain family-friendly and requests the EEAS to respect the needs of families that are dispersed over various locations due to working conditions in third countries.

 

The bottom line is that Brussels should be foreseen for all RL destinations to ensure that staff who need to return to Europe in order to maintain relations with family and friends, have the possibility to do so and are not conditioned by ever-reducing financial allocations which place their physical and mental well-being at risk.


USHU calls on the EEAS to revise the 2023 Rest Leave decision and ensure Brussels as the destination for maximum flexibility for expatriates in hardship locations.

 

IF YOU ARE BASED IN A HARDSHIP LOCATION AND WANT YOUR SAY ON THE NEW REST LEAVE DESTINATIONS, PLEASE CONTACT USHU
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