Annual and special leave

(1) At its 11th session (April 1951: CCA/A.11/SR.7, 10 and 11; CO-ORDINATION/R.93) CCAQ decided the policy to be followed in principle in dealing with staff called for military service.

(2) At the 18th session (March 1957: CO-ORDINATION/R.245, para. 23) CCAQ noted a proposal of UN concerning the administration of annual leave rules in resignation cases; this had a useful bearing on the problem of ensuring equality of treatment between staff members who gave notice of resignation and those who did not. (

(3) At the 19th session (March 1958: CO-ORDINATION/R.264, paras. 16-18) CCAQ noted that the practice of organizations varied regarding accrual of annual leave during maternity leave. It felt, however, that identity of practice was not essential. (

(4) It decided also, at the same session (CO-ORDINATION/R.264, paras. 36-61), that "as a general policy" General Service staff should be included in the common system of leave. General Service staff at field offices should be given annual leave and holidays on the same basis as headquarters staff. If local holidays exceeded those at headquarters, a corresponding reduction might be made in the annual leave. (

(5) At the 20th session (April 1959: CO-ORDINATION/R.295, para. 84) IAEA proposed that leave entitlements for General Service staff should be based on local practice. The majority of organizations thought it preferable to maintain the common leave system. They raised no objection to IAEA putting its proposal into effect locally, as had been done by ICAO in Montreal and FAO in Rome.

(6) At the first part of the 21st session (April 1960: CO-ORDINATION/R.325, Annex I) CCAQ reiterated that General Service staff should be granted annual leave and public holidays on the same basis as Professional staff. ICAO and IAEA disagreed, while FAO had been thus far unable to apply the policy uniformly. Where the number of public holidays at any office exceeded the number granted at headquarters, a corresponding reduction might be made in annual leave. Special leave for General Service staff should similarly be on the same basis as for Professional staff.

(7) At the 23rd session (March 1962: CO-ORDINATION/R.391, para. 108) CCAQ noted that there were differences of practice as regards accrual of annual leave for short-term technical assistance project personnel. It agreed that no action need be taken for the time being to secure greater uniformity. Differences in official holidays at various duty stations were due to factors beyond the control of the organizations.

(8) At its 31st session (March 1970: CO-ORDINATION/R.798, paras. 53 and 54) CCAQ agreed the following common rule: (a) a maximum of 60 days' annual leave plus the current year's entitlement (i.e. normally a total of 90 days) may be accumulated; (b) a maximum of 60 days' accumulated leave may be carried forward from one leave year to the next; (c) a maximum of 60 days' accrued leave may be commuted to a lump sum cash payment on separation, calculated on the basis of salary and pensionable allowances.

(9) CCAQ also agreed that terminal leave (i.e. annual leave immediately prior to the date of separation) might be granted, depending on the exigencies of the service.

(10) In its second annual report (1976) (UN document A/31/30, paras. 65, 220-225, 247) ICSC recommended that to reduce the need in future to consolidate classes of post adjustment into base salary, those terminal payments at present expressed in terms of base pay (including payment in lieu of accrued annual leave) should be expressed in terms of pensionable remuneration less staff assessment. The General Assembly adopted this recommendation in resolution 31/141 of 17 December 1976.

(11) At part II of its 46th session (February-March 1977: CO-ORDINATION/R.1208, para. 27(d)), at the request of UNDP, CCAQ considered leave practice in cases of death of a close relative of a staff member, and concluded that such leave could best be treated by each organization in the exercise of the discretion provided for in the existing rules.

(12) At its 36th session (1981) the General Assembly decided that separation payments, including accrued annual leave, would continue to be based on gross salary adjusted by movements of WAPA, less staff assessment (decision 36/459).

(13) At its 61st session (July 1984: ACC/1984/16, paras. 81-83) CCAQ decided not to pursue a number of proposals submitted by FICSA regarding special leave, with the exception of adoption leave, on which the Secretary was requested to carry out a study. At the same session, CCAQ agreed, on the basis of a proposal by UNDP, that staff serving in duty stations designated as having inadequate medical facilities might be granted time off of up to one day during home leave for the purpose of undergoing medical examinations (ibid., para. 103).

(14) CCAQ agreed at its 62nd session (March 1985: ACC/1985/6, para. 114) that adoption leave should be handled through the existing provisions for special leave with pay. It also agreed that the leave should start from the day the child arrived in the adoptive family, that staff members should give as much advance notice as possible and that they would not be required to exhaust annual leave before special leave was granted. The Committee also agreed to revert to the issue after a few years.

(15) At its 66th and 67th sessions in 1987, CCAQ reviewed recommendation 61 of the Group of High-Level Intergovernmental Experts to Review the Efficiency of the Administrative and Financial Functioning of the United Nations (Group of 18) which called, inter alia for the reduction of annual leave from 6 to 4 weeks. CCAQ took strong issue with this recommendation (ACC/1987/4, paras. 49-50; ACC/1987/10, para. 74) and so informed ICSC, which was reviewing the matter at the request of the General Assembly. ICSC concurred that there were no grounds for reducing annual leave entitlements and recommended to the General Assembly that these remain unchanged (A/42/30, para. 44). This was also one of the issues on which CCAQ prepared a position paper at the request of ACC (see 2.2, para. (43)). The General Assembly, in resolution 42/221, took note of the Commission's views.

(16) At its 66th session, CCAQ agreed that the time off for medical check-ups referred to in paragraph (13) above could be taken in conjunction not only with home leave, but with annual leave outside the duty station. The amount of time off should, nonetheless, remain at one day per year (ACC/1987/4, para. 59).

(17) At its 69th session (July 1988: ACC/1988/12, paras. 91-94), following a review of practice in the organizations in granting adoption leave, CCAQ concluded that the scale of the problem did not warrant the pursuit of greater harmonization. It reaffirmed its earlier reluctance to establish a leave entitlement specifically designed for cases of adoption. In its view there should be no qualifying period of prior service, and special leave should not normally be granted in cases of the adoption of step-children or of children who had previously been living with the staff member for an extended period. At the same time, the Committee recalled the guidelines agreed to at its 62nd session (see para. (14) above).

(18) On the basis of its comprehensive review in 1989 of the conditions of service of staff in the Professional and higher categories, ICSC recommended (A/44/30, vol. II, paras. 73(d), 439, 440 and 453(a)) that the entitlement for commutation of accrued annual leave should be computed by reference to net remuneration at the staff member's last duty station. The General Assembly endorsed that recommendation (resolution 44/198). This approach had been supported by CCAQ at its 71st session (July-August 1989: ACC/1989/14, para. 88). The Assembly also agreed that under the new mobility and hardship package the entitlement to time off for medical check-ups for staff at designated duty stations should lapse (A/44/30, vol. II, para. 301).

(19) At its first meeting (June 2001: ACC/2001/HLCM/7, para. 41) the Human Resources (HR) Network was informed of organizations' efforts to introduce a new entitlement for paternity leave. UNICEF had introduced 8 weeks for paternity leave in line with its policy on adoption leave, WHO had introduced, on a pilot/trial basis, 5 days for paternity leave and ILO intended to put forward to its Governing Body a proposal for 5 days.

(20) At its April 2002 meeting (CEB/2002/HLCM/8, para. 15) the HR Network emphasized that initiatives to introduce paternity leave - an important feature of changing organizational cultures - must be viewed in light of organizations' reform agendas, the policies adopted by the executive heads in 1995 on Work/Life and Improving the Status of Women as well as the Beijing Platform for Action, which acknowledged the shared role of both parents in the family. It expressed concern over the very limited information on employers' practices provided and supported the ILO's offer to prepare a conference room paper for the Commission with complementary information. It noted that the "occasional series" brochure on this subject, which had been issued by the CEB secretariat, provided more information, especially as regards the ‘business case' for introducing paternity leave. It also noted that flexibility in modalities was essential in order to be responsive to the needs of the organizations (e.g. those with a larger number of staff with split households) and the views expressed in different governing bodies and decided to urge the Commission, in light of the need for such flexibilities, to confine its role to one of providing broad policy guidance. The Commission agreed in principle that: (a) paternity leave could be introduced in the common system; (b) it should be provided under a uniform policy and be of reasonable duration, taking into account the needs of the organization and of the family; (c) once introduced, the uniform policy would supersede the existing paternity leave entitlements in those organizations which had already introduced them; those entitlements would be standardized on the basis of the new policy; and (d) a framework for paternity leave should be developed which would also address specific situations, e.g. cases of staff serving in remote non-family duty stations. It therefore requested its secretariat, in consultation with organizations, to prepare specific proposals for consideration at its 55th session (ICSC/54/R.12, para. 130). (

(21) At its July 2002 meeting (CEB/2002/HLCM/14, para. 11) the HR Network, after reviewing additional information and proposals provided by the ICSC secretariat, reiterated the points made at the previous meeting and expressed concern that the proposals in the document were not sufficiently substantiated with empirical evidence and rationale and raised questions which went well beyond the issue of paternity leave, particularly with respect to adoption leave. The proposals were in effect regressive, particularly with respect to the duration of paternity and adoption leave. It noted that many organizations had granted 8 weeks adoption leave under their special leave provisions for many years and encouraged those organizations who had not yet established this practice to do so. It decided to inform the Commission that the organizations believed that it would be unfortunate, indeed unacceptable, to reduce existing arrangements and to urge it to review this issue in a holistic manner along with a range of family-related arrangements (e.g. maternity leave, time off for breast feeding, payment of travel for child to accompany staff member on duty travel). The Commission decided to defer consideration of the item to 2003 A/57/30, para. 6).

(22) At its March 2004 meeting (CEB/2004/HLCM/14, para. 15) the HR Network recalled the considerations advanced at its previous meetings and noted that, since the early 1980s, based on a decision of ACC, the predecessor of CEB, many organizations had given eight weeks' adoption leave and that there was now a requirement, on the basis of equity, to offer the same benefits to biological fathers. It recognized that, given the diverse needs of the organizations, including the duty stations and environments where they operated, this was an issue that demanded flexibility rather than a prescriptive approach. In that context, the Network strongly objected to the recommendations contained in the ICSC document in that: (i) they provided no flexibility for organizations that already provided paternity and adoption benefits; (ii) the proposals would in practice be counter to HR reform efforts underway in the majority of organizations; (iii) that the rationale for why paternity leave should be less than adoption leave was unclear; and (iv) that the principle of paternity leave should be based on enabling bonding between father and child, rather than simply a question of the location of the parent, and that there was no empirical evidence in the document on why it should be limited to two weeks.

(23) ICSC decided, in the light of existing provisions developed individually by organizations for paternity leave and the statements from organizations, that the cost of the entitlement was negligible and that its application had no effect on operational capacity. In consideration of the need to maintain good staffing/management relations, the Commission decided that: (a) a duration of up to four weeks' paid leave for paternity purposes should be granted to staff at headquarters and family duty stations and up to eight weeks for staff at non family duty stations or in exceptional circumstances, including death of the mother, inadequate medical facilities or complications encountered at the time of pregnancy; (b) the provisions outlined in (a) above should supersede existing paternity leave arrangements in organizations; (c) the provisions for adoption leave should not be subsumed under the provisions for paternity leave; (d) administrative details covering the management of paternity leave (e.g. the maximum number of leave entitlements) should be determined at the level of the organizations (A/59/30, para. 211). The General Assembly took note of the decision and confirmed the recommendations of the Commission to have paternity leave implemented throughout the common system within the parameters set forth in the report (resolution 59/268 I I).

(25) At the twelfth meeting of the HR Network (CEB/2006/HLCM/17, para.6), with regard to documents ICSC/63/R.2 and ICSC/63/CRP.3/Add.3, it was noted that these did not provide a comprehensive review of leave entitlements within UN organisations.  The HR Network therefore recommended to the ICSC that no serious discussion take place on the basis of the available documentation.  It suggested the construction of a working group.  The Commission decided to:
o    Request its secretariat, in cooperation with the HR Network secretariat and representatives of a few other organisations and staff, to develop a comprehensive inventory of leave practices, holidays and similar paid closure days and work hours of all organisations of the common system.
o    Instruct its secretariat to include for reference purposes the practices of the comparator for leave, holidays and working hours.
o    Request that the types of leave entitlements be organised in clusters, with staff rules and regulations cited as necessary.
o    Request that the report be provided for its 65th session (July 2007).

(26) At the videoconference of the HR Network in October 2006 (CEB/2006/HLCM/35, para.7), documentation on leave entitlements (ICSC/63/R.2 and CRP.3/Add.3) submitted to the ICSC had not been considered complete. ICSC had therefore decided that, in cooperation with the HR Network and a few other organizations, to develop a comprehensive inventory of leave practices, holidays and similar paid closure days and work hours of all organizations of the common system.  All organisations were expected to contribute to the inventory, which the HR Network would coordinate through a Working Group.  The HR Network decided that the following organisations should establish the Working Group: ILO, UN (New York and Nairobi), UNHCR, FAO, UNFPA, WHO (tentatively), and UNDP. The Working Group should complete its work in April 2007 for presentation to ICSC’s July session.

  • Human Resources Network (HRN)