Brussels, 5 December 2017
Note to the attention of Commissioner Günther OETTINGER
Budget and Human Resources
Subject: Volunteering of Children’s Staff and consequences on family allowances and tax abatement
R&D has been supporting and encouraging, for years, colleagues to engage in volunteering initiatives and continues to work in this direction under the principle of solidarity which drives both European action and our trade union commitment.
In 2011, on the occasion of the European Year of Voluntary Activities for promoting Active Citizenship, R&D has been fully involved in the preparation of the “Etats Généraux du Volontariat” organised by the Central Staff Committee, who had seen the active participation of three generations – young, active, pensioners – of the EU humanitarian staff associations, representatives of DG HR and external associations.
Each participant had been able to contribute in order to elaborate an action plan with 4 sections concerning information, selection of volunteering actions, recognition by the Institution and how to involve Staff of the European Institutions in actions (please see final report).
Since then, we have kept asking DG HR to integrate “volunteering” into the social policy of the institution and to effectively implement this action plan. This, without ever being discouraged by the first refusals or by the first responses often purely bureaucratic.
We are happy to see that, some years later, some proposed measures such as the organization of “Away days” of volunteering in the DGs and services, the adoption (in October 2015) of the “guidelines on staff volunteering” (confirming the Commission’s commitment to integrate volunteering into the culture of our institution), the setting up of a special leave, etc. have started being implemented, and that DG HR itself finally encourages management and staff to volunteer.
In particular, we are glad that one of the recommendations of this action plan has now been applied and that DG HR have just launched the First Volunteering Week, which took place from 27 November to 4 December 2017, explaining that it even makes it a priority for social integration and stressing the need for the institution to be closer to society.
R&D greatly appreciates and supports this initiative which brought together 500 volunteers working for solidarity, education and the environment (find out more) and we particularly appreciated that you wished to meet these colleagues.
It’s time to go further.
It is now time to go further and deal with some other inacceptable decisions adopted by our administration.
In this respect, we would like to raise your attention to the fact that colleagues are facing negative consequences when their children follow a volunteering program after their secondary studies and before going to a university or following professional training.
PMO and the appointing authority refuse the benefit of child allowances, abolished medical coverage and tax reduction and abatement to colleagues whose childrens left on volunteer programs.
In particular, we have just dealt with a case where the child went outside the EU in a program recognized by the Belgian National Employment Office as a professional training. Despite this point, the claim under Article 90.2 was rejected by the AIPN.
We have dealt with several other cases on this matter. This policy clearly discourages colleagues to engage their children in such an experience.
This is clearly in contradiction with the political statements of the Commission and European Institutions on volunteering.
As a matter of fact, in 2011, the Commission asked Member States to recognize the skills and know-how acquired through volunteering and to remove direct or indirect barriers to volunteering. In particular, it identifies voluntary activities for young people as a priority. Subsequently, the Council and the European Parliament adopted texts in 2012, thus recognizing and appreciating these voluntary activities and asking the Member States to recognize the rights of volunteers, including social protection.
The policy followed by PMO as regards family allowances and tax abatement when a child is taking part to a volunteering program, is clearly a barrier to volunteering and we are sorry to see concretely, once again, the dichotomy between announcement and reality.
Therefore we would kindly ask you to please take into consideration these issues and to bring the action of the Commission in line with its political recommendations.
Copies: Mrs I. Souka – DG HR
Mr Fernando Garcia, Mrs J. Sinclair – DG HR
EU humanitarian staff associations
Central Staff Committee
Commission & Agencies Staff