Colleagues in Kyiv to return to the office II

Since our last update on our Kyiv colleagues, we have been reaching out to colleagues of all categories in Kyiv. Hardship there continues: a situation ongoing since the outbreak of war (February 2022). Kyiv has been frequently shelled, there are power cuts many hours throughout the day; there are water shortages; sirens are going off frequently. The situation on the ground is extremely unsettling and it is impossible to have predictability on how long this will continue.

In spite of the circumstances outlined above, management plans to increase the number of essential staff required to be present in the Kyiv office from 12 to 22 starting in January 2023.  To facilitate this physical return, management requested staff provide presence planning. Colleagues who were evacuated to Brussels at the beginning of the war are now expected to travel to Kyiv for work trips (‘missions’) of at least a two-week long duration.  During their presence in Kyiv they will be considered as ‘essential staff’.

With the difficult living environment in Kyiv currently and given the fact that many expat colleagues have commenced their posting in Kyiv when it was a family posting, we can see that this arrangement has created very uneasy circumstances for them.  Without being able to predict (naturally) when normalcy will return, colleagues are now in temporary accommodation in Brussels without most of their belongings; some have had to send their spouse and children back to their respective country of origins so that they can continue education.

Pending the volatile safety situation (including the continuous shelling of the city) the mission to Kyiv must be considered high risk, with a possible impact to physical safety and mental health. Such missions are particularly challenging if colleagues are parents (especially lone parents), and struggle to take care of their children as well as to ‘volunteer’ for the two-week long mission in Kyiv.

With the above facts in mind, Generation 2004 would like to underline that the EEAS DEC(2014)008 relating to Duty of care responsibility for Staff in [European] Union Delegations in case of country evacuation:

‘Withdrawal from place of assignment of non-essential Delegation expatriate staff – a significant change in security situation necessitating the withdrawal of staff, judged non-essential for the immediate functioning of a Delegation, to a safe area outside of the place of employment.  For Commission staff the Head of Delegation together with the Commission Service concerned shall determine which staff should be considered as essential.

One should therefore understand that if a staff member was evacuated to Brussels, then they are by definition – non-essential.  Therefore, unless colleagues are genuinely volunteering to carry out the mission which is justified by reasons of urgency, we see there is no legal basis for EEAS to put pressure on colleagues to work in a war zone.  The possible duration of the mission should also be made more flexible (i.e. allowing for one-week missions) to adapt it to safety risks, and family situation of colleagues evacuated to Brussels.

  • While teleworking has been largely implemented in Kyiv at all levels, including with project partners and other counterparts, we believe that without verifiable and measurable added value, management should refrain from increasing the physical presence of colleagues in the Delegation. The added value should be weighed against the likelihood and impact of risk for physical safety and mental health which continues to be extremely high. Likewise, the local colleagues present in Ukraine should be provided the maximum flexibility in terms of teleworking mode. Kyiv.
  • For colleagues who expressed their wish to be included in rotation/mobility before the current situation could be known (colleagues clearly could not have predicted it at the deadline of expression of interest for the early rotation 2023 exercise), Generation 2004 kindly requests that the EEAS devise ad hoc solutions such as calling for expressions of interest for ‘floater’ staff for Kyiv.
  • Should massive changes be planned for the set-up of the EU Delegation in Kyiv (e.g. transforming it into a non-family post), we request that the staff be informed well in advance (notably to allow the completion of the school year in the current place of stay, or to arrange for private accommodation/avoid penalties imposed for early termination of a lease/contract). The staff unable to continue their deployment in Kyiv should be assisted with receiving a posting (either in another Delegation or HQ) commensurate with their experience.

Until the end of this ongoing evacuation period, the expat colleagues should continue to receive their full entitlements, as is in line with the relevant EEAS decision, and with previous practice with other evacuated delegations.

We request that a single point of contact (SPOC) be nominated by the EEAS so that we know to whom we can direct our consultations and enquiries at all times.

As always, we love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

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