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Decision in case 247/2016/AMF on the refusal to grant leave for travel time to a staff member of an EU mission

Langues disponibles : en
  • Affaire : 247/2016/AMF
    Ouvert le 15 mars 2016 - Décision le 10 nov. 2017
  • Institution(s) concernée(s) : Service européen pour l'action extérieure

A member of staff of the EUCAP Sahel Niger Mission[1] (’the Mission’) complained to the Ombudsman that the Mission had wrongly refused his leave request. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and suggested that the Mission should reconsider how it handled the issue.

Following the Ombudsman’s intervention, the European External Action Service (‘EEAS’) and the Mission apologised to the complainant and agreed to compensate him for the leave. The Ombudsman closed the case as resolved.

Background to the complaint

1. The complainant works as a Seconded National Expert for the EUCAP Sahel Niger Mission (hereafter, ’the Mission’) since November 2013.

2. At the time when the complainant started working for the Mission, staff at the Mission were entitled to additional leave when it took more than 12 hours travel to reach their leave destination.[2]

3. On 21 March 2014, the Mission sent an administrative notice to its staff[3] stating that, from that date on, the shortest possible flight itinerary from Niamey (Niger’s capital) to the leave destination would be the basis for calculating whether or not this additional leave for travel time would be granted.

4. The complainant sent an email to the Human Resources department of the Mission later in March 2014, asking it to clarify his personal situation regarding his rights to a travel day when flying from Niamey to Barcelona in May 2014.

5. The Mission replied in April 2014, informing the complainant that he was not entitled to travelling days for the itinerary Niamey-Barcelona. The complainant replied expressing his disagreement.

6. The Mission confirmed its position later in April 2014, reiterating that the shortest possible route between Niamey and Barcelona lasted less than 12 hours, therefore he was not entitled to a travel day.  

7. On 15 July 2014, the rules for staff working at the Mission were amended as follows: “Mission members are entitled to 1 travel day/month to be used for travel in conjunction with leave outside the Mission area and only applicable when the trip lasts 12 hours or more, in accordance with the mission’s administrative notice”. At the time the applicable administrative notice was the notice of  21 March 2014 which were now being given formal ratification in the rules amendment.

8. In August 2015, the Mission issued a new administrative notice[4], revising the earlier notice. It stated that the additional leave for journeys over 12 hours would be based on actual flight travel time and no longer on the shortest available flight itinerary from Niamey to the final destination.

9. The complainant raised his concerns about the refusal of his leave request with the Mission on a number of occasions, but received no satisfactory reply.

10. Dissatisfied with how the Mission had handled the issue, the complainant turned to the Ombudsman in February 2016.

The inquiry

11. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the complaint that the EUCAP Sahel Niger Mission was wrong in refusing the leave for travel time requested by the complainant prior to July 2014.

12. In the course of the inquiry, the Ombudsman requested clarifications from the EEAS on two occasions.

13. The Ombudsman pointed out to the European External Action Service (EEAS), which has overall responsibility for the Mission, that, before the revision on 15 July 2014, the applicable rules clearly provided for additional leave time (of 1 day per month) for journeys where the actual travelling time was 12 hours or more. The Ombudsman therefore asked the Mission, through the EEAS, whether it would reconsider its position on the additional travel leave days in question.

14. The Ombudsman received a positive reply from the EEAS, as well as comments of the complainant in response. The decision of the Ombudsman takes into account the arguments and views put forward by the parties

Refusal to grant leave for travel time

Arguments presented to the Ombudsman

15. The complainant argued that the Mission introduced its new policy concerning leave for travel time (based on the shortest itinerary) before the rules for staff working at the Mission were officially modified on 15 July 2014.

16. In reply to the Ombudsman, the EEAS stated that the Mission acknowledges that the administrative notice was adopted and implemented prior to the related amendment of the rules for staff working at the Mission. The Mission is therefore willing to grant monetary compensation to the complainant equivalent to the travel leave day refused before the amendment of the rules on 15 July 2014.

17. In his comments on the EEAS’s reply, the complainant stated that he accepted the compensation offered by the Mission.

The Ombudsman's assessment

18. On the basis of the above, the Ombudsman finds that the case has been resolved.

 

Conclusion

Based on the inquiry, the Ombudsman closes this case with the following conclusion:

The EEAS and the EUCAP Sahel Niger Mission have taken steps to resolve the matter complained about.

The complainant and the EEAS will be informed of this decision.

 

Emily O'Reilly

European Ombudsman

Strasbourg, 10/11/2017

 

[1] https://eeas.europa.eu/csdp-missions-operations/eucap-sahel-niger_en

[2] Article 12.f of Annex 10 of the Mission´s Operation plan (OPLAN) approved by the Member States for 2013-14, which stated that “Mission members are entitled to 1 travel day/month to be used for travel in conjunction with leave outside the mission area and only applicable when the trip lasts 12 hours or more.”

[3] 2014/RH/265

[4] 2015/RH/1399/EG.