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Decision of the European Ombudsman in her strategic inquiry OI/4/2016/EA into how the European Commission treats persons with disabilities under the Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme for EU staff

Wednesday | 10 April 2019

In 2015, a UN Committee found that the health insurance scheme for EU staff members, the Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme (JSIS), does not comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The committee recommended that the JSIS be revised to offer comprehensive coverage for disability-related health needs.

After receiving complaints from staff members, who had encountered problems getting their own or their family members’ medical expenses fully reimbursed, the Ombudsman conducted a strategic inquiry. She found that the failure of the European Commission to take any effective action in response to the committee’s recommendation amounted to maladministration. She thus recommended that the Commission revise the rules governing the JSIS. She also made a number of suggestions to the Commission relating to how the needs of persons with disabilities are covered under the JSIS, as well as on the need to train staff and properly consult stakeholders to ensure the JSIS reflects the needs of persons with disabilities.

The Commission replied, stating that it will revise the rules governing the JSIS and will take action to follow up on most of the Ombudsman’s suggestions.

As the Commission has accepted her recommendation, the Ombudsman closes her strategic inquiry. Given the importance of the issue, she asks the Commission to report back within six months on the implementation of the recommendation. The Ombudsman also confirms her suggestion on the need for the Commission to review its 2004 rules on accommodating the needs of staff with disabilities.

Decision in case 1455/2015/JAP on the conditions at a test centre for a selection competition organised by the European Personnel Selection Office

Tuesday | 07 November 2017

The case concerned the European Personnel Selection Office’s (EPSO) handling of a complaint about the conditions at a test centre for a selection competition for EU civil servants. The complainant had been assigned a computer beside the entrance door, and claimed the disruption caused by people entering and leaving the room negatively affected her performance. Her attempts to have her concerns dealt with by staff at the test centre were unsuccessful and she subsequently complained to EPSO. Dissatisfied with how EPSO dealt with her complaint, she then turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and requested that EPSO look into the complaint more thoroughly. The Ombudsman’s inquiry team also met with representatives from EPSO and the contractor responsible for managing the tests, and visited a test centre at EPSO’s headquarters. The Ombudsman concluded that, overall, further inquiries in this case were not justified; however, she made a number of suggestions for improvement to EPSO.

Decision in case 969/2016/JN on the rejection by the European Union Advisory Mission Ukraine of the complainant’s application in a selection procedure

Friday | 13 January 2017

The case concerned the rejection by the European Union Advisory Mission Ukraine (EUAM) of the complainant’s application in a selection procedure. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that there was no maladministration as regards the rejection of the application. The Ombudsman further found that a one-level administrative review mechanism is sufficient. Finally, the Ombudsman was pleased to be informed that the European External Action Service has now decided to amend the message it sends to rejected candidates in order to include information on available remedies.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 52/2014/EIS concerning the decision of the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) to have due regard to the force majeure principle in open competitions

Thursday | 17 November 2016

The complainant, who works for the Court of Justice of the European Union on a temporary contract, applied for an EPSO competition to recruit conference interpreters. The Notice of Competition stated that completed applications had to be submitted by 6 August 2013 at noon. The complainant missed the deadline. On 7 August 2013, she informed EPSO that she had been hospitalised from 5 to 6 August 2013 and therefore had not been able to complete her application on time. On 7 August 2013, she requested EPSO to extend the deadline. EPSO refused. Its main reason for refusing was, it stated, that it must treat all applicants equally.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and made the preliminary finding that EPSO had failed to consider whether the complainant’s circumstances amounted to a situation of force majeure. She thus recommended that EPSO (i) acknowledge that there are situations where, because of force majeure, it is fair and proper that candidates should be given a new deadline; (ii) clarify the circumstances in which such a new deadline should be set; and (iii) inform candidates accordingly. EPSO initially rejected the Ombudsman's recommendations and argued that it would be difficult to draw a line between different justifications put forward by candidates and to set out how candidates would prove that force majeure had occurred. It added that allowing candidates to invoke force majeure would jeopardise both the smooth running of open competitions and the equal treatment of candidates. It also referred to statistics which, it argued, proved that dealing with all the requests for deadline extensions after the deadline has expired would be an administrative burden for EPSO.

However, following meetings between Ombudsman and EPSO staff, EPSO finally accepted the recommendations of the Ombudsman in principle. As regards the specific case of the complainant, however, the Ombudsman noted that the competition in question had ended. She also noted that the complainant had chosen not to comment on the response of EPSO to her recommendations. In view of this, the Ombudsman considered that there were no grounds for further inquiries into whether the complainant’s case met the requirements of force majeure that EPSO now, in principle, agrees to apply.