Interim staff at the Commission: FAQs

Here are some Generation 2004 frequently asked questions (FAQs)[1] and sources on interims, those temporary colleagues who are often expected to be up to speed and functional within a very short space of time. This can often translate in real life as having been ‘thrown in at the deep end’ and expected to ‘hit the ground running’ without much information about how things really work.

Interims also find themselves with additional responsibilities which are often overlooked by others, such as repeatedly having to chase signatures for their weekly timesheets, repeatedly having to remind hierarchy of a fast-approaching contract end date or having to find out which rules changed recently since no one invited them to the corresponding training.

On top of this, there are the difficulties inherent in having to work between two different systems (those to whom the staff regulations apply and everyone else) and in getting mobile phone/internet/accommodation contracts with a very short-term work contract, no matter how many times it might be renewed.

As ever, if each of us is not aware of our rights, it’s difficult for us to make use of them. Please check out our list below and feel free to send us your contributions, corrections or questions! We are here for you!

Why are you using the French word? Why are you writing interim in italics?

In English this would be ‘agency staff’ (as used in MyIntracomm>Staff Matters>Agency staff). For some reason, even in English, we use the French word at the Commission (hence the italics). It is possible that this is to avoid confusion with ‘agency staff’ meaning the staff working in decentralised organisations (agencies) (e.g. Frontex or Europol) and executive agencies (e.g. HADEA).

Interims are EU employees, right?

No, interims are employed by an employment agency such as Randstad, Adecco or Start People. On a CV this type of employment is sometimes written as Adecco@IBM or Randstad@EU Commission.

‘Agency staff (“Intérimaires” in French) are not Staff members of the European Commission: they are not subject to the staff regulations nor by the Conditions of Employment of other servants of the European Union.’ (Agency staff).

Interims can become EU employees, right?

The EU recruits via EPSO competitions,  Contract Agents Selection Tool (CAST permanent)[2]  and internal competitions. Working as an interim can be a way to gain relevant experience, to build your network and to be in the ‘right place at the right time’. Nevertheless, the promise of a contract (whether or not it finally materialises) might also result in interims working above and beyond, with the corresponding risk of exploitation/burnout.  A period as an interim may also change your place or origin on recruitment (see below).

So, what about pension contributions/health insurance/family allowances/unemployment benefit?

Interims are in the national system for all social security rights. In Luxembourg that probably means you’re paying tax in Luxembourg but living in France, Belgium or Germany: this adds some paperwork.

So, how long is an interim contract?

contract duration can be anything from 0.5 days (minimum) to 6 months (maximum) (equivalent to 120 days (FAQ)). After that there must be a 1-month break. (Interim in Brussels).

What? There’s a 1-month break?

Interims cannot work for more than 120 days uninterrupted. To get around this, the Commission uses a 1-month period of unemployment (‘break’). This might fall over a particularly inconvenient time such as the Christmas period.

Be aware of entitlements to national unemployment allowances during this time and endeavour to have the paperwork ready for this eventuality (e.g. it might be difficult to track down all signatures in the run-up to Christmas). See FAQ for the calculation of that month and possible restart dates.

What is full time? Can interims do overtime? What about flexitime?

Full time is 38 hours per week, 7 hours and 36 minutes per day. Overtime is only allowed under specific circumstances (FAQ). We can find no mention of flexibility: what is your experience of this?

What about public holidays/periods of closure?

There is paid leave over Christmas, depending on contract dates (MyIntracomm>Staff Matters FAQ). We can find no further published information: we believe the national public holidays would apply (not Commission public holidays). Please let us know if this is not the case!

How much are interims paid?

Pay depends on the function group/level and is expressed as gross pay per hour (here is the published rate for Brussels). Note that it includes holiday pay, i.e. if/when you take time off it is not normally paid.

Make sure the employment agency communicates your gross/net pay clearly and know what the national minimum wage is (e.g. Luxembourg).

The rate for a given location should be the same independent of the employment agency used: ‘the salary is the same whatever the agency.’ (MyIntracomm>Staff Matters FAQ)

What are the interim function groups/levels?

Information is available for Brussels and Luxembourg only.

Brussels (Group Function I-IIIs)

  • I: manual and administrative support
  • II: secretary/clerk
  • III: assistant
  • ​IIIs: experienced assistant

Luxembourg (Agency staff level 1-5)

  • 1: Technical and/or logistical agent, Administrative agent
  • 2: Educator, Nursery nurse ​
  • 3: Secretary, Office clerk
  • 4: Technical assistant, Accountant help
  • 5: Financial assistant, Statistical assistant, IT assistant, Dietitian, Nurse, Proofreader, Laboratory technician.

What rules apply to interims?

‘Their working conditions are defined by the social legislation in force in the relevant Member State (different in Brussels and Luxembourg).’ (Agency staff).

If you are at a different location, use ‘staff contact’ on the Agency staff webpage to request information on working conditions

How can interims attend training without access to EULearn?

Generation 2004 clarified this with HR: interims can still attend training even though they have no access to EULearn. Nevertheless, the responsibility is unfortunately on the interim colleague to be aware of the training and to take action.

Having worked as an interim doesn’t change my potential future place of origin/entitlement to the expatriation allowance, right?

It can and it does: but we do realise that his is a problem you don’t have yet and which might never be relevant for you. Nevertheless, please look at potential future scenarios and keep yourself informed.

It can change where you are considered to have been recruited from:

Consider someone from Malta accepting to move to Brussels on an interim contract while awaiting a promised contract (e.g. as a contract agent). On signing that promised contract agent contract the place of origin could be set as the place of recruitment (Brussels). This new staff member might therefore not be entitled to moving costs, annual travel expenses or travelling time, in spite of having made the effort to move to Brussels to accommodate service needs. i.e. it would have been better for that same person to wait in Malta for the contract agent contract.

It can change whether you are considered to have been resident or not:

Consider a temporary agent from Ireland who is working in Brussels and who is receives the expatriation allowance. If that colleague subsequently decides to become Belgian then all previous residence in Belgium must be looked at. Even a month as an interim could be enough for that colleague to no longer receive the expatriation allowance.

Why a FAQs?

There are so many different types of contract at the Commission that it can be difficult to know what rules apply and to whom. It’s important to us at Generation 2004 that all colleagues have the tools and information they need to make informed choices and maybe even to help each other out. Yes, we know interim colleagues cannot vote in staff committee elections, nevertheless we’re here to make sure that no one is left behind.

“In a Union of equals, there can be no second class workers.” (J.C. Juncker, State of the Union address, 13 September 2017)

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

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


[1] Here is the MyIntracomm>Staff Matters FAQ. We can see the problem here with having this information available within the Commission intranet: you already have to be inside to have access to it. Feel free to ask your employment agency and your Commission contact for this information. You can also get in touch with us.

[2] This is a misnomer: the ‘permanent’ does not mean the post is permanent. ‘Permanent means that there is no deadline, so candidates can submit an application at any time.’ Contract Staff (CAST Permanent)

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