High time for the Commission to show flexibility!

*Update 14.12.2022 list of buildings closed Dec/Jan* We, the Commission staff, have shown (and continue to show) outstanding flexibility, especially during the recent crises: whether that’s the pandemic and the lockdowns, war in Ukraine, energy resources or skyrocketing inflation. In spite of all this and the exceptional workload these crises created for many DGs, staff made every possible effort to continue to deliver business continuity in the interest of the European people we serve. 

However, although the administration praised us with some nice words on several occasions to recognise the exceptional efforts made by staff to cope with these unprecedented situations, it seems clear that we cannot expect the same flexibility in return. 

Generation 2004 is convinced that such efforts should be duly recognised not only with words, but also with concrete actions. Even more so in the current situation, where staff need more flexibility and support to face uncertainty in many different spheres. 

To take concrete steps in this direction, Generation 2004 sent a note to DG HR to again request the administration pay the lump sum described in the Decision on Working Time and Hybrid Working (WTHW), to cover teleworking costs, this time using the building closures due to further spiking of energy prices as one more argument [1].

‘Where appropriate, DG HR may adopt a decision providing for a lump sum covering certain costs of teleworking staff, subject to budgetary availability.’  (WTHW decision, Article 13(4))

Generation 2004 is convinced that this provision should be triggered now to tackle the current inflation and energy crises, and particularly when buildings are closed (often at short notice), thus making teleworking de facto an obligation [2]. This measure is particularly relevant now that exceptionally high inflation – reaching even 2-digit levels that were unknown for decades – is dramatically impacting the revenue of households, and particularly those of staff in the lower salary range 

Again, with the obligatory gradual move to hot-desking, staff members are already sacrificing their working conditions and showing maximum flexibility to contribute to the efforts announced by the Commission to reduce office space and cut costs. Additionally, many staff members cannot afford to mirror in their homes the working conditions that are prescribed at the workplace, such as IT equipment, ergonomic furniture, space, lighting, ventilation and above all temperature, because of the steep increase in energy bills, in addition to already-sky-high housing costs – Luxembourg, we hear you!  Please participate in our survey on utility bills!

Generation 2004 calls on DG HR to allow staff to telework from anywhere (TWA) when buildings are closed and a de facto obligation to telework is imposed. If the Commission closes buildings because of blackouts in the host countries or if energy prices continue to rise, staff cannot be obliged to remain in the place of employment facing a hardship situation.  TWA should then be exceptionally allowed for those who wish to do so, helping them to choose how to address costs, for instance, by staying with their families abroad or spending these difficult and cold times in a warmer place.  

We believe that in these hard times the administration is morally obliged to reciprocate the  flexibility shown by staff for so long, and adopt measure to relieve some of the burden created by the ongoing crises.  

After all, the (far from perfect) WTHW decision is ostensibly based on a culture of trust. How can trust be established if efforts, good will and flexibility are not reciprocated? 

Generation 2004 calls on the administration to take brave steps and show concrete support to its staff now! 

We urge the Commission to do the right thing, be fair with staff and contribute to our additional costs.

As always, we are eager to hear from you, let us know how this affects you!

If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a member of Generation 2004.


[1] We first requested this in April 2020, since colleagues in the European Parliament (EP) were already receiving a lump sum of €40 per month (to date (December 2022) that is 33 months x €40 = €1320). No Commission staff have received any such contribution to date and HR have repeatedly mentioned that the budget does not allow for any such payment, meaning that the lump sum exists on paper only.  The EP intervened in support of the Commission to refuse to pay the internet and phone costs of a colleague during Covid. Note also that some payment was already due pre-WTHW decision:

‘An official shall be entitled, as provided in Annex VII, to reimbursement of expenses incurred by him … in the course of or in connection with the performance of his duties.’ (staff regulations, Article 71 )

[2]The WTHW states that working from home (WFH)/teleworking is voluntary (Article 9(3)) while the Commission simultaneously pursues a building policy of reducing overall office space and open-plan/hot-desking environments. Would there really be a desk for everyone if all Commission staff chose to work from the office at the same time? Would everyone be able to carry out their tasks at that desk? E.g. carrying out sensitive tasks in an open environment/staff with additional needs finding no place with specialised furniture available.

The assertion that teleworking is now ostensibly voluntary dilutes the idea that the employer should contribute to the associated costs: if we are genuinely choosing to work from home then why should our employer contribute to our associated costs?

‘Previously, when teleworking was not mandatory, [the way the costs of teleworking are shared between employer and remote worker] was rarely discussed. However, there is now a growing consensus that employers should contribute to the cost of teleworking (e.g. in terms of covering Internet and electricity fees, rent, etc.) (Popescu, 2020).’ (European Parliament, 2021, The impact of teleworking and digital work on workers and societyp. 45)

Leave a Reply