Home-office equipment dilemma: zero clarity

Following the announcement by Commissioner Hahn and DG HR of a move to help staff equip their home offices, many of you contacted Generation 2004 to enquire about the two different schemes mentioned. Yes, you read that correctly, the Commission has set up one scheme for the (partial) reimbursement of a screen and an office chair (purchase deadline 31 December [1]) and is developing a more comprehensive second scheme for 2021.

Generation 2004 was pleased that the Commission is at last taking steps in the direction we have been advocating for since the start of the COVID‑19 crisis: support staff under the compulsory teleworking arrangements by improving ergonomics at home.

However, the information available on the two schemes is still rather unclear. We received many questions from colleagues who are puzzled and would like to know more before making their choice. Take for example this sentence published on My IntraComm under My home office: ‘Staff who choose not to use this option at this stage will be eligible for a future Commission scheme to support them during teleworking.’

Other colleagues criticised the purchase deadline of 31 December [1] for the 2020 scheme. At Generation 2004, we also believe that the deadline of 31 December 2020 gives staff quite limited time to purchase a screen and an office chair [2]. These items might not be readily available in some – especially local – shops, which remained closed for some time. Often ergonomic chairs need to be pre-ordered. In addition, with the Christmas festivities approaching, delivery time might coincide with travel.

Therefore, a – possibly considerable – number of colleagues are still awaiting more information on the 2021 scheme to understand which of the two schemes might better suit their needs.

With all this in mind, we first of all requested HR to extend the deadline for the purchases under the current scheme at least until after more information is available on the upcoming 2021 scheme.

Also, to ensure fair treatment, we requested that the rule of no obligatory proportionate-reduction payback of the Commission’s contribution which is currently applied to retiring staff also be applied to staff with low salaries who will leave the Commission before the end of the 5-year proportionate-reduction period.

Lastly, we urged HR to provide the following information on the 2021 scheme as soon as possible [3].

  • What will it – or is it likely to – include?
  • Might it include more hardware (docking station, keyboard, mouse, etc.), an ergonomic table and contribution to internet access and other costs?
  • Will those who ask for the partial reimbursement of a chair/screen under the current scheme qualify for additional reimbursement via the 2021 scheme, except for the chair/screen the Commission would already have partially reimbursed?
  • When is it expected to be up and running? Can we expect it to be operational in the first quarter of 2021 or later?
  • Will it be available to all staff categories? Will all teleworkers qualify or only those with a teleworking arrangement above a certain threshold, e.g. more than 50% of working time?

Stay tuned for the reply! As always, we will inform you as soon as we receive it. In the meantime, feel free to contact us if you need help or have additional questions.

[1] 31.12.2020 these deadlines were extended: purchase deadline is now 31 January 2021 (inclusive) and the deadline for submitting the claim for reimbursement 15 February (midnight, Brussels time). (Source: Coronavirus: Communication to Commission staff – Update 27).

[2] Also note differences for different staff : different reimbursement platform for seconded national experts (SNEs): eSIRE and a different system altogether for local agents (LAs) in delegations (European External Action Service (EEAS)): IT equipment but no furniture.

[3] Generation 2004 is still awaiting a detailed response but in the meantime we have an email 17.12.2020: Coronavirus: Communication to Commission staff – Update 26 

‘I am aware that some of you are wondering whether to wait rather than take up the current reimbursement offer in case the next iteration of this initiative is more generous. You should know that any further initiatives will be similar in nature. Put another way, there is no benefit in holding out for a better offer.’
Gertrud INGESTAD
Director-General for Human Resources and Security

 

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