Leaves at the European Commission

Leaves at the European Commission

Agora #90

Leaves at the European Commission: facts, most popular, and recent evolution and the differences in the implementation practices.

Institutions and EU Bodies of which employees work under the Staff Regulations (SR)[1] have a similar set of leave rights. Each Institution or EU body has the legal freedom to interpret the SR corresponding anchors[2] in the way they wish. This might lead to slight differences in their implementation. In the Commission in particular the SR is completed, regulatory speaking, by a Commission decision[3] and further completed by implementation practices which might differ from service to service.

The annual leave entitlement is off two working days for each completed month of service meaning 24 working days per calendar year. These basic annual leave rights are complemented by additional ones depending on the age (1 to 6 days) or the grade (1 to 3 days) of the employee.

Beyond regular annual leave, there is a flat rate supplementary home leave of 2 and a half days for the purpose of visiting your home country for employees that benefit from the expatriation or foreign allowance; this means for any employee that has its place of origin/interest formally defined and recognized by the administration as being outside the country he/she works.

One could consider as a rule of thumb that employees take 6 calendar weeks of leave a year in addition to the Bank Holidays applicable in their place of work. Bank Holidays are by consensus between 17 and 19 days per calendar year in Brussels and Luxembourg. There is also some flexibility at the Commission in working during some Bank holidays. Indeed, for many years now there are about 2 or 3 specific Bank holiday dates per calendar year (typically to adapt for Easter or May holidays) where one can work and be compensated for (a day annual leave extra for a worked Bank Holiday).

Last but not least, these annual leaves and supplementary days from the employee rights can be carried over to the next calendar year for a maximum of 12 days. This is to ensure a proper/manageable service business continuity. Requests for carry-over of more than 12 days are rarely granted. Also each year Staff in the Commission lose leave rights (probably – no available data – one or two days on average). That is beyond work they might do on weekends / nonflexible Bank Holidays / during leave periods that do not generate additional rights or compensation in effect. The possibility exists to get compensation for working on weekends/holidays but is strongly conditioned in a way that is almost never effectively granted.

[1] Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Union and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Union, laid down by Council Regulation (EEC, Euratom, ECSC) No 259/68(1), have been amended by Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1023/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013(2) (the ‘revised Staff Regulations’).

[2] Articles 42, 57, 58 and 61 of the SR and its annex V, articles 16 & 91 of the CEOS (second part of the SR text)

[3] Comission Decision on leave C(2013) 9051 final

The above is for everyone. Now comes the special leaves that are only provided if one fulfills specific and sometimes very precise (not to say logically limitation to avoid abuse) conditions. The Commission has a quite regular/standard set: 14 related to family reasons (adoption, maternity, marriage, death in the close family) and 14 ‘Others’ (shift work, moving, training, elections, public office, job seeking at the end of contract, summons, etc). Beyond being linked to very precise and very limitative conditions, most of these special leaves are very limited in quantity in the sense that they do not allow fulfilling the purpose they aim at (holding elected office max 12 days per year, trade Union leaves maximum 4 days per year, moving maximum 2 days, serious illness of partner maximum 3 days, death of a (close) relative, etc).

The most used special leaves are logically the ones related to the family. Beyond the marriage, employee families often have or adopt kids and therefore benefit from maternity (max 24 weeks) and/or paternity (10 days) leave. A very trendy complementary one when parenting is of course parental leave. It is becoming more and more popular.

The parental leave is a well-established right that was brought alongside the 2004 Staff Regulations reform. The most common use of it is as an extension of maternity leave but not only. Indeed, the second is an extension of the annual leave. One could write a book about parental leave especially as it was not always properly understood and not always ‘practised’ in the same way by all Commission services, let alone other Institutions or EU bodies.

In the Commission, what does it entail? Does the Hybrid Working mode change its use?

The basics of this more and more popular conditioned leave are enshrined in Article 42 a of the Staff Regulations and mentioned implementing decision:

  • Parental leave is a right. It can’t be refused. it can only be slightly delayed so that your service can organize the Business continuity due to your scheduled absence.
  • The right is of 6 months per child which can be extended to 12 months per child in given conditions (eg heavy handicap of child). It comes with an allowance (a thousand Euros)
  • It can be taken full-time or half-time and for a minimum of one month.
  • The right is ‘usable’ up to the 12th birthday date of each child.

One might think the disadvantage is that the allowance is low and does not compensate for the loss of income for the employee, but it can be associated with a part-time leave as is often practiced ensuring a minimum income (in the case of a 50% part-time, the employee gets 50 % of its salary and 50% of the allowance).

The two other key advantages of parental leave are that, unlike an interruption of career, it:

  • Does not stop the employee’s seniority in his grade/function from running, thereby allowing his/her career advancement.
  • Does not put the employee in a position to have to pay for the JSIS (medical) coverage in addition – one keeps its full right for medical reimbursements for himself/herself and his/her family without extra costs.

Last but not least regarding this parental leave, it is compatible with the use of teleworking from abroad (away from the vicinity of your work site for 10 working days maximum per calendar year) This is particularly important as most employees are Expatriates and need, beyond taking care of their children, to be there for their relatives (parents) in their place of origin.

The COVID crisis is probably one of the reasons for the increasing success of parental leave. Indeed, the crisis brought the generalized hybrid working and showed the need for dedicated (totally) work and connection-free time. The crisis also highlighted the limits of the administrative (and inhuman) treatment of leave requests (with all their limitations and conditions). We observed a related drawback in our Institution: a potential breach of medical confidentiality and privacy. Indeed, our Administration and the related services (Pay Master Office which i.e. covers medical reimbursement) are becoming increasingly involved in staff privacy. Some leaves indeed involve providing medical or private data. The exchange of information between services is of course heavily regulated for obvious reasons. However, in some cases including leaves, confidential information was made available to such a large number of persons/services that some doubts exist as to the guarantee of secrecy.

As we have expressed at the start, we also need to address the implementation practices differences. They differed from service to service but following an administration reorganization in 2020, these implementation differences have diminished at the Commission. Still, some special leaves are instrumentally misinterpreted by some managers/resource correspondents. We’re probably at a structural level one can expect for any humanly driven organization. However, for colleagues’ individual leave refusal / canceling it can be very emotional (e.g. proof of death or burial not showing the date and/or place).

Arty Kyramarios


Belgian-Greek; born, raised and educated in Brussels. Currently working at the European Commission (Eurostat) in Luxembourg. Active since 2001 in various USF member organisations. Currently active in the member organisation USFL (Vice-President) and in the Local Staff Committee of the Commission in Luxembourg (President).