Article written by Michael Steffens and Helen Conefrey
The euphoria concerning the ruling in December 2019 in relation Annual Leave was short lived as an appeal lodged by the Commission, the Council and the Parliament was successful.
On top of this loss, the new Decision on HOME LEAVE is STILL PENDING - USHU lobbied hard to INCREASE the number of days for travel time as partial compensation for the 2014 cuts!
In this newsletter, we explore how the pieces of porcelain that were broken in this process could be glued back together. We look into a range of responses our managers could apply in order to ensure motivation among staff is safeguarded.
There was plenty of hope attached to the annual leave case and quite rightly so. The reduction of leave days by 18 days with the 2014 reform was a massive blow to all expatriates in EU Delegations.
USHU exclusively represents colleagues working in EU Delegations and EEAS Headquarters, and it knows that expats still refuse to accept this unilateral reductions to the their leave entitlements.
Even in 2021, new colleagues still refer to the reduction in annual leave as one of the priority issues to tackle. Both the EEAS and the Commission must reconsider their position and find ways to offset the reduction enforced as of 2014.
USHU calls on the EEAS and the Commission to find ways to offset the cuts to annual leave enforced in 2014 and to ensure expatriates have a fairer deal.
Any expatriate who has served in EU Del for several years, knows there are many reasons to require additional annual leave days. Most do not have general practitioners at their place of work so in the past, they regularly used their leave to be able to consult medical practitioners in their home base/Europe. Complex medical issues at times need to be dealt with in a comfortable environment without language barriers and many staff need to be able to visit their doctors and dentists in Europe. In many countries where expatriates are posted, health services are mediocre and definitely not up to European standards. Colleagues are often very reluctant to rely on local doctors or to undergo medical procedures in their place of posting. They naturally prefer to reduce risk and do medical run check-ups or operations in Europe.
Expatriates also need more time to be able to stay in touch with family and friends in Europe. During the crisis we have all recognised that virtual link-ups are indeed helpful but can never replace one-to-one relations with family members and close friends.
For non-family stations or specific medical issues, many families are already divided over two locations and every leave day matters even more.
Our Institutions must recognise more the importance of allowing sufficient leave for expatriates to be able to travel considerable distances to ensure they can spend quality time with their families and loved ones in Europe. Loneliness in a third country can be soul-destroying and more attention must be paid to physical and mental health by ensuring adequate leave for expatriates.
USHU stands by the Court’s first ruling as it considers that the 2014 cuts to Annex X disproportionately impacted on expatriates in EU Delegations.
WHAT SOLUTIONS DOES USHU PROPOSE?
INCREASE IN HOME LEAVE : The EEAS and Commission’s continue to fail to implement their own decision on an increase to HOME LEAVE days as of 2020. USHU is lobbying for the greatest possible increase as per distance from place of origin. Thus far the EEAS and COM are offering extremely limited increases despite the fact that expatriates have been waiting for YEARS and are very frustrated about the lack of progress. USHU is pushing for an improved Decision to be adopted AS SOON AS POSSIBLE so that staff may benefit in 2021.
TELEWORK: Telework has been the default for many during the crisis and has demonstrated itself to be a WIN-WIN for business continuity and staff safety. EEAS and COM must fully integrate Telework into the modern workplace and all staff in EU DEL must have access to Telework once the health crisis eventually ends. USHU requests the EEAS to adopt a Telework Decision for EU DEL that transcends the current crisis and ensures access for all in the future.
Administrative and Medical Special Leave: USHU calls on the EEAS and COM to introduce a period of 5 days for all expatriates for administrative and medical in Europe. This would allow expats to combine special leave with annual leave/mission in order to get vital medical appointments and deal with a range of administrative issues that cannot be done virtually.
Additional Special Leave Entitlements : Basically no CA staff in EU DEL benefit from additional days related to higher grades as the reclassification process for CAs is much slower than for officials and there are currently very few staff on the highest grade in each Function Group. Similarly, for age, expats of all categories are working in an increasing number of hardship countries, which must be taken into consideration when granting additional days for age as expatriates are often in a instantly stressful context due to insecurity and other local conditions.
USHU calls on the EEAS and COM to listen more to expatriate staff.
USHU requests the EEAS and COM to actively consider the above proposals to partially offset the unilateral cuts of the 2014 reform to the Staff Regulations.
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