Watch out for summer storms!
At the height of this year's summer holiday period, the Administration published an Administrative Notice (No 18-2017 of 26.07.2017) on the possible implementation of "leave in the interests of the service" under Article 42c of the Staff Regulations.
The notice provides little clarity on the grounds for triggering such a serious procedure, and it is not surprising therefore that it has given rise to varied reactions from colleagues, ranging from anxiety to perplexity.
The FFPE asks the Administration to clarify its intentions and to confirm that any recourse to the procedure would, as is generally the case in the other institutions, be on a voluntary rather than forced basis.
The FFPE requests in particular that the procedure start with a call for expressions of interest, in an explicit, clear and transparent manner, and be implemented without any arbitrariness on the part of our administration.
What's at stake?
"Leave in the interests of the service" is a possibility introduced by Article 42c of the Staff Regulations, which entered into force on 1 January 2014 and provides that:
"At the earliest five years before the official’s pensionable age, an official with at least ten years of service may be placed by decision of the Appointing Authority on leave in the interests of the service for organisational needs linked to the acquisition of new competences within the institutions."
What are the pros and cons?
If you meet the age and seniority conditions and you wish to take early retirement without incurring a penalty and while safeguarding your pension rights (there is the possibility to continue paying contributions while on "leave in the interests of the service" until pensionable age), then this may be of interest to you.
We advise you to calculate the salary and allowances you would receive during the period of leave (Annex IV to the Staff Regulations) and the amount of your future pension and, where appropriate, to inform the Business Correspondent within your DG's HR unit of your potential interest.
If you do not want to retire, but fear that your hierarchy has in mind to "let you go" in this manner, you must make your disagreement known vigorously and without hesitation due to the serious and virtually irreversible consequences of leave in the interests of the service:
- Losing your post: your professional activities, your network of work contacts, etc.;
- Rapid and substantial reduction in your income: due to the shift from a full salary to a leave allowance, loss of eventual expatriation allowance, etc;
- Limiting your pension rights: contributions are possible only up to your pensionable age but not between that age and 65 years (leave in the interests of the service implies compulsory retirement at the pensionable age calculated in accordance with Annex XIII to the Staff Regulations).
The unilateral application of this measure against a colleague's will is therefore likely to result in harm that can be as significant as it is rapid and unexpected. Colleagues might also be selected through a particularly expeditious procedure that does not provide the procedural guarantees and time-limits of a true disciplinary procedure such as, for example, compulsory retirement.
The Commission did not use this provision of the Staff Regulations in 2014 or 2015. It tested it for the first time in 2016 on 13 colleagues, and against the wishes of some of them.
In May, the EU General Court ruled in favour of a colleague contesting the Commission’s arbitrary action, granting interim measures suspending the implementation of the decision: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/FR/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:62017TO017... (only in FR for now).
The Commission is therefore taking a slightly different approach in 2017, circulating its “Administrative Notice” in the middle of the summer.
Last year, the Commission acted in secret. This year it is at least giving some visibility to its call to DGs to “select” colleagues for this measure, but it is still not clear whether colleagues will be allowed to volunteer or will be nominated against their will...
The FFPE regrets this half-measure because it nevertheless is a disguised appeal to colleagues to express their interest...
The FFPE calls for transparency and clarity and for the Administration to clarify its approach and to eliminate any risk of arbitrariness and confusion in implementing such a measure, which looks very much like a convenient mechanism for getting rid of unwanted staff.
It should be noted, however, that the mechanism's scope is limited: a maximum of 29 colleagues might be concerned this year. The Staff Regulations limit the scope of the Article to 5 % of the number of colleagues retiring the previous year.
To sum up:
Are you sufficiently informed and interested? Make your hierarchy and Business Correspondent aware of your interest in participating.
Conversely, do you feel at risk of the provision being used against your wishes, your interests, and your plans for your future work life and retirement?
In either case, for further advice or clarifications, please contact us at the FFPE.
You'll never walk alone!