You will be happy to know that the question of retirement age was very much on the agenda this summer at the meeting of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), in which the Coordinating Council took part.
The Pension Fund has been asked to produce a report on the mathematics of it all, taking into account our ever-growing life expectancies and to report on whether a change in retirement age would be necessary. This report will be ready for the spring meeting of the ICSC. If the ICSC does agree to extend the retirement age, there is a real possibility that the WTO model will be followed. This would of course have to be agreed by the General Assembly meeting the following fall, so don’t expect any changes before 2012.
The question of the transition to a new system will be a delicate matter. A balance will need to be found between the rights of staff who joined the UN late in their careers and who need to retire with a decent income, and the career aspirations of their younger colleagues. All suggestions are welcome.
The big issue:
Flexible working arrangements
Despite its calm appearance, Geneva isn’t the easiest of cities to work in. The shops close early, deliveries only take place during working hours and crèches often find it difficult to observe office hours. While this certainly protects the rights of shop and other workers who provide services to us, it makes things a bit less convenient for UNOG staff.
In recognition of such difficulties, the United Nations has had a policy on flexible working arrangements (FWAs), which, as attested by the blitz campaign on iSeek last year, management is now keen for you to benefit from. However, take up in Geneva remains low at only forty staff. A recent survey at UNCTAD suggested that this was partly down to a shortage of information on the subject and colleagues feeling that making a formal request for FWAs would be badly seen by their peers.
It is of course important that managers are reassured that whichever the FWA chosen, we all remain bound by our employment contract to the Organization and our requirement to fulfill our work plan to the best of our ability. At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that being at one’s desk is not in itself an indicator of output. The Organization does retain the right to refuse you access to flexible working arrangements, but as with all such decisions, this would need to be justified. With that in mind, please find below a short explanation on how the main types of FWA function. It is based on ST/ SGB/2003/4 and ST/IC/Geneva/2003/28, both of which are on iSeek.
Staggered working hours
In Geneva, you are bound to work eight hours a day. These hours must cover the core working hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during which you must be present, except for one hour at lunch. These core hours are also intended to guide your managers in planning meetings or activities which require team interaction. Outside of the core hours, starting and ending times may vary to meet external personal needs, based on an understanding with your supervisor.
Ten days in nine
This scheme allows you to take every other Friday off by working an extra 45 minutes each day. A long weekend every two weeks can be motivating and is already commonly practiced at World Bank headquarters. This has to be discussed at your section level in order to ensure that there are enough staff every Friday to cover basic functions. Managers would of course be encouraged to schedule team activities between Mondays and Thursdays.
Because of certain personal circumstances some colleagues choose this method of work, which involves working from home or another location up to two days a week. You will need to provide your own IT equipment and be fully accessible by phone or email as if you were at the office – all this at your own cost. Managers have been encouraged to be creative in allowing for this. While it may not appear so, many functions, including management ones involving substantial responsibility, can be carried out by telecommuting.
Part time work
This allows for you to reach an agreement with your office to work part time and to be paid in proportion. This has been used most by colleagues with children at state primary schools where Wednesdays are days-off. In this case, you would work 80 percent, get paid 80 percent, minus some small adjustments to ensure you continue to receive full medical insurance coverage, and receive two days of annual leave per month. You will need to obtain the approval of your supervisor first but with some creativity it should be possible to accommodate such a request.