Covid-19 – new teleworking guidelines and reimbursements of necessary costs

The Commission has published updated teleworking guidelines  which first entered into force on 25 May 2020: the first day of phase 1 of the deconfinement. We summarise the most important points in this article. Please take the time to read the guidelines carefully. Different sites will have different timelines, subject to the situation on the ground and the measures taken by the host country.

Reimbursement of additional costs

The new guidelines do not mention reimbursement, but many of you have written to us underlining the need for (better) equipment at home or complaining about elevated communication costs. We raised this point with DG HR. In order to be reimbursed for such costs under Art. 71 of the Staff Regulations, you must file a formal Art. 90.1 request to the appointing authority. However, while it is at least something, we do advise you to be cautious and not to go on a shopping spree: while at Generation 2004 we believe that things like a larger computer screen or an ergonomic chair should be reimbursed, there is no precedent for this and we just do not know how HR will react and what they will consider to be necessary expenses. If you would like our assistance with this (though this process is new for us too), then please get in touch and we’ll do what we can.

Update 17 June 2020: Following the publication of this article, many colleagues have asked us how to prepare their Art. 90.1 (request) and we have prepared a template for you to use. After you have completed it and have scanned your receipts, please send everything to hr-mail-e2@ec.europa.eu.

Voluntary return

For most of us, teleworking will continue throughout phase 1. This phase is a transition phase and HR is aiming to have around 10% of us volunteering to be present in the buildings and appears to have flexibility in this. There are examples of volunteers being allowed to partially returning to the office e.g. to be present 2 days instead of 5 or volunteers who have changed their mind and decided not to return. HR will monitor the number of persons per building and will intervene if this number becomes too high in a particular building. Those in the buildings will practice social distancing.

Mandatory return

This concerns the very-limited number of colleagues who cannot telework because their job does not allow it (e.g. logistics staff). So far, these colleagues are on special leave. They will come back to the office under the weekly shift regime, see below. However, these colleagues will continue to stay on special leave if they, or a person living with them, is part of a risk group for Covid-19. A medical certificate should be sent to the medical service, which will verify the risk. Likewise, staff who have children under 13 at home who are unable to attend a childminding facility will stay at home as well.

Weekly shifts

The line management will divide colleagues returning to the office in two shifts/teams. The shifts will alternate on a weekly business, to mitigate the risk of spreading the infection, but also to give enough space for physical distancing. The shift that is not in the office will telework during the respective week. Together with the 10% limit mentioned above, this means that both shifts taken together will not exceed 20% of staff.

After two months, the line managers can decide to reshuffle the teams. This does not mean that HR expects phase 1 to last for two months. However, if it does last this long, line managers should think about a possible reshuffle, to allow colleagues to work together on certain tasks.

Teleworking from abroad

As before, colleagues should in principle work from their place of employment and residence. However, should you travel to another country and then find that you cannot return due to newly introduced travelling restrictions, you can telework from that place as long as the restrictions apply. This of course requires that you have the necessary equipment with you for telework – ensuring the availability of the equipment is your responsibility.

Time recording

You can register your real working hours and you can register more than 8 hours of daily work. You should register this as “work at the workplace”, not as “telework”. Line managers are encouraged to apply flexibility as regards core time, especially for parents where childminding facilities are still closed. Further, line managers can authorise more than 20 hours of credit balance transfer to the next month for colleagues work many extra hours due to the crisis. At the end of the crisis, these colleagues will have 6 months to reduce their credit balance to the normal 20 hours.

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