The recovery of undue payments is one of the fundamental principles of the law of obligations: anyone who has paid an amount to someone without legal cause is entitled to demand repayment. It is therefore a question of ‘returning the money to the sender’. This principle, which seems simple at first sight, can, however, lead to a headache when it comes to applying it in European civil service law.
Throughout their career, employees have to update their personal data or apply for things to which they are entitled under the Staff Regulations. In this respect, they have a duty of care and it is essential that they are vigilant in the event of any change in their family, personal, housing or other circumstances, as such a change may result in a reduction or withdrawal of rights previously enjoyed.
Through the statutory link that binds him/her to the Union, the official or staff member (1) is granted a certain number of individual rights. These include, in particular, allowances for dependent children or school fees, invalidity or seniority pensions, unemployment benefits, or the reimbursement of removal, travel or medical expenses.
As soon as an employee starts working, he or she is required to actively participate in the transmission of information that is supposed to enable the administration to establish these rights (2). Once the forms have been filled out, the administration is responsible for establishing the first rights, according to the concrete and factual situation demonstrated.