Article written by Michael Steffens, EU Delegation to Iraq and Helen Conefrey, EU Delegation to Paraguay
While colleagues in EU Delegations around the world are progressively returning to the office, the policies attached to their return are largely dependent on proposals made by Heads of Delegation and can differ substantially from one EU DEL to another and are often perceived as distant from the precautionary approach taken at HQ.
USHU advocates for a comprehensive and coherent policy ensuring the safety and full knowledge of the local context at all times. Any policies must be responsive to the changing trajectory of the health crisis locally and where there are considerable concerns, teleworking should continue to be the norm. There is no need to take risks when we already know that business continuity can be ensured with hybrid working patterns.
Staff complain they have already been requested to return 100% to the office despite the EEAS BA communication indicating that until a new hybrid working decision is formally adopted, EU DEL staff will be allowed at least one day of teleworking per week.
USHU requests local management to have discussions with Delegation Staff Representatives and where possible with all staff. We must find a way to ensure that this is a participative process and that staff are able to voice any worries they might have and obtain replies from our hierarchy.
Many colleagues are of course pleased to have the option of returning to the office and that is marvellous. Others however still find themselves in complex situations where they may need to care for a loved one or supervise young children who continue with on-line learning. The Commission and EEAS must listen to individual staff who have challenges arising from the pandemic that make it difficult for them to suddenly return to the office 5 days a week.
As usual, we need to be guided by the science and until there is a much larger global uptake of the various approved vaccines, caution must prevail to ensure that staff and their dependents are safe and confident that the EU DEL are doing all within their power to limit contagion and guarantee health and safety at the workplace.
Many staff have additionally voiced their concern over the inability of the EEAS to vaccinate adolescents in Brussels during the summer break. Their children are now back in third countries with little or no chance of obtaining a vaccine any time soon despite this often being recommended by many schools in order to return to classes.
USHU calls on local management to consult Delegation Staff Representatives more and to listen to any concerned staff over the return to office policy.
USHU requests the EEAS to guarantee at least one day of Telework per week to those who request it and to speedily consult and adopt a new Decision to regularise telework in EU DEL.
USHU reminds management that many adolescents in EU DEL have not yet been vaccinated and more support and advice is needed.