Assignment allowance

Introductory note. Assignment allowance was introduced on the recommendation of the Salary Review Committee (1956) (see UN document A/3209, para. 286), following proposals of the organizations for reconciling divergent conditions of service in different programmes.

In concept, the allowance was to be paid in the case of any official who was assigned to a particular duty station for from one to five years and for whom the organization did not offer to pay removal expenses. In approving the main lines of the Salary Review Committee report, the General Assembly left a number of detailed points to be resolved by inter-organization consultation. With the introduction of the mobility and hardship allowance and the assignment grant in 1990, the assignment allowance ceased to exist.

(1)     At the special meeting in March 1957 (CO-ORDINATION/R.244, paras. 24-26) CCAQ agreed on the schedule of amounts proposed in the Joint Statement of the executive heads, and on the policies to govern administration of the allowance as regards:

     i.     payment of the allowance at headquarters cities;

     ii.     limitation (in time of payment);

     iii.     relation to installation grant;

     iv.     application to General Service staff;

     v.     application of the dependency rate;

     vi.     relation to lodging. Cases where transitional arrangements proved to be necessary were few, and were to be handled individually by the organizations in the light of all circumstances.

(2)     At the 19th session (March 1958: CO-ORDINATION/R.264, paras. 22-23) the Committee agreed, with UNESCO dissenting, that subject to certain conditions the allowance should be paid to a staff member in his own country and (exceptionally) also on initial appointments to a headquarters location.

(3)     It agreed at the same session (CO-ORDINATION/R.264, paras. 56-58) that the allowance was not payable to General Service staff. If such staff member was on a "temporary assignment" away from his regular duty station he should receive his normal emoluments plus an "adequate" subsistence allowance. The allowance would normally be lower for an assignment of relatively long duration (ibid., Annex I). If he was "transferred" he should be put on the salary scale of the new duty station (plus non-resident's allowance if applicable).

(4)     At the first part of the 21st session (April l960: CO-ORDINATION/R.325, paras. l3-l6), as a result of a request for information from UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, CCAQ members exchanged information on their practices:

     i.     For assignments of less than one year "an appropriate subsistence allowance" was paid but no assignment allowance.

     ii.     For an assignment of one year, where the official was terminated before the end of the year, assignment allowance was paid for the period actually served.

     iii.     Payment at headquarters locations was confined to cases of transfers or appointments for not more than two years. UNESCO had not paid the allowance to new recruits.

     iv.     The Committee noted that in certain posts, where staff rotation was not possible, the five-year limit to the allowance could create difficulty.

(5)     Also at the 21st session (first part) (CO-ORDINATION/R.325, paras. 45-46) CCAQ again agreed that General Service staff should not receive assignment allowance. The Committee noted that it was sometimes necessary to send General Service staff on assignments. It was agreed that such assignments should be of less than one year, during which the official should receive normal pay plus subsistence allowance. If the duration was obliged to be more than one year, the official should receive the pay scale of the new duty station, plus non-resident's allowance.

(6)     At the first part of the 22nd session (January and March l96l: CO-ORDINATION/R.351, paras. 20-21 and Annex II) CCAQ reviewed the administration of the allowance and prepared an agreed statement of policy which is at Annex II of CO-ORDINATION/R.35l. This replaced the agreements referred to in paras. (l), (2) and (3) above. It provided that:

     i.     the allowance was intended to cover extra costs arising from non-removal of household effects and for dislocation due to assignment;

     ii.     it was not payable to staff in General Service or Field Service categories;

     iii.     the decision whether to pay it rested exclusively with the organization, which would, however, take account of the personal circumstances of the official;

     iv.     it was normally not payable for assignments of less than one year;

     v.     it would normally be payable when an official was appointed at or assigned to a headquarters location for at least one year but less than two. In the case of appointment or assignment to headquarters locations for more than two years, with no expectation of extension, the organization would decide in each case whether to pay; normally, however, the entitlement in a case of assignment for over two years should be to "removal expenses". Where the allowance had been paid for two years at a headquarters location, and the appointment or assignment was extended, the organization might continue to pay the allowance, but the total period of payment should not exceed five years. Where an initial fixed-term appointment at a headquarters location, with payment of assignment allowance, was converted to a career appointment, the assignment allowance should cease and removal entitlement be granted; if the official had already removed at his own expenses, he should not be reimbursed;

     vi.     at field duty stations, the allowance could be paid for any assignment of from one to five years, but in the case of staff transferred to established offices for more than two years the alternative of "removal" should be considered in the light of all the factors, including cost of removal. If, while receiving assignment allowance, an official's assignment was extended to cover five years or more at the same duty station, an entitlement to removal should be substituted for the allowance. If five years' service at the duty station was completed, or if an intermediate-term assignment was converted to long-term, and if the official's next assignment was to a duty station on a basis where he would not receive the allowance, "removal" might be authorized. If an intermediate-term expert was transferred to another assignment in the same duty station, the allowance could be continued, even if the second assignment resulted in a total period of service of more than five years in the area. In the case of long fixed-term contracts for Special Fund projects, an organization might pay the allowance for a full five-year period. Receipt of lodging in kind should not affect an official's entitlement to assignment allowance.

(7)     Also at the 22nd session (first part) (CO-ORDINATION/R.351, Annex II) CCAQ discussed proposals for certain basic changes of policy, but agreed that:

     i.     no difference should be made in the amount of the allowance for the first and succeeding years;

     ii.     there should be no further study of the question of increasing the amounts, and of the question of paying the allowance for assignment to the home country, under special conditions;

     iii.     the possibility of reduced rates for intra-European assignments and appointments should be examined.

(8)     At the 23rd session (l962: CO-ORDINATION/R.391, paras. l5-l9) Staff Office was instructed to make a study of the above policies, including the purposes of the allowance and the distinction between assignment and installation allowances. Any proposals for revision would go to the l963 General Assembly. Meanwhile, organizations would deal administratively with difficult cases.

(9)     At its 24th session (l963: CO-ORDINATION/R.430, para. l9-20) CCAQ noted that although proposals had been made to the UN General Assembly in l962 to permit the assignment allowance to be paid for more than five years, the Assembly had taken no decision on them. The organizations had no co-ordinated alternative policy ready, and had taken different courses of action to deal with the cases of staff whose five-year period of payment elapsed during l963. The Committee agreed that it would be undesirable to make further ad hoc extension or to press any proposals for a general extension beyond l963 except as part of a comprehensive revision of the system. The complexity of the subject, and the fact that the needs of the organizations did not seem to be identical, made it unlikely that the review (see COORD/CC.24/6) which had begun through Staff Office in l962, could be brought to a conclusion before l964. It was agreed therefore that pending completion of this review the "five-year rule" should remain in force without change; exceptions made in l963 would stand, but there would be no further extensions in l964.

(10)     At its 25th session (l964: CO-ORDINATION/R.45l, paras. 27-31) CCAQ felt that the considerable work done on the subject showed that a satisfactory revision of the assignment allowance system might entail revision also of the rules on removal of effects, baggage allowance and installation allowance. Until there had been time to study the nature and consequences of such revision, no changes should be made in the assignment allowance. A working party should consider the whole question in October l964.

(11)     The working party was unable to meet until October l965. Its report (COORD/CC/SO/l33) was considered at the 27th session of CCAQ (l966: CO-ORDINATION/R.532, paras. 54-64). While CCAQ agreed to certain changes in removals and baggage conditions (see section 4.4 para. (5)), it was unable to agree on any general revision of assignment allowance conditions. In the circumstances, it agreed that it would be inadvisable to increase the five-year limitation on payment. Some organizations reported that they continued payment for a few months beyond the five years in the case of individual officials whose transfer was delayed for the convenience of the organization.

(12)     At its 35th session (March l972: CO-ORDINATION/R.931, paras. 24-28), CCAQ agreed, subject to a reservation by ICAO, on certain conditions for a revised system of assignment allowances to be suggested to the Special Committee for the salary review if the opportunity arose.

(l3)     The recommendations of the Special Committee (paras. 321-33l, A/8728), which fell short of the proposals of CCAQ, were referred by the General Assembly for further review by an International Civil Service Commission in l974.

(l4)     In anticipation of the implementation of a recommendation of ICSAB at its 22nd session (l974), based on ACC proposals (ICSAB/XXII/R.2), for a two-tiered schedule of assignment allowance rates, CCAQ agreed that the existing rates should continue to apply in the metropolitan areas of countries situated on the European continent, in its entirety, as well as in Turkey, Malta, Cyprus, and in Canada and the USA (CCAQ/SEC/336(PER), para. 33).

(l5)     The two-tiered schedule of assignment allowance rates came into effect on l January 1975 by decision of the General Assembly at its 29th session. Because of practical difficulties arising from its decision of July l974 as regards Turkey (see para. (l4) above), CCAQ, at its 4lst session (March 1975: CO-ORDINATION/R.l087, para. 30) decided to exclude from that decision the Asian portion of Turkey.

(l6)     At the same session, CCAQ examined a proposal by WHO, supported by UNDP, to liberalize the granting of exceptions to the five year limitation on the payment of the assignment allowance at any one duty station. It was decided to maintain the limitation pending any examination of the question by the new International Civil Service Commission (CO-ORDINATION/R.l087, para. 29).

(l7)     At its Special Session in August 1975, CCAQ examined a UNDP proposal that the higher rate of assignment allowance be made applicable to field duty stations in Europe. The conclusion of the Committee was negative since organizations in general did not consider that such duty stations were characterized by conditions to which the higher rate was intended to apply (CO-ORDINATION/R.lll3, para. l7).

(l8)     At its Special Session No. l (January l976: CO-ORDINATION/R.ll33, para. 5 and Add.4), CCAQ agreed on a draft ACC text for ICSC (later cleared by correspondence) on conditions of service for staff in the field, in which it suggested that the value of the assignment allowance be reviewed by ICSC whenever it was re-examining the salary scales.

(l9)     In its second annual report (l976) (UN document A/3l/30, paras. 77, 294-300) and on the basis of its review of the UN salary system, ICSC recommended no change in the amounts or conditions of the assignment allowance, but reported that it would review the rates whenever necessary.

(20)     At its 49th session (July l978: CO-ORDINATION/R.l294) CCAQ decided to recommend to the Commission that (i) the limit of five years for payment of the allowance to a staff member serving at the same duty station should be modified to allow for one extension of a fixed duration where the staff member remained at the duty station in the interests of the service; (ii) the differentiation in rates as between staff below P-5 and those at that grade and above should be replaced by the rate applicable at P-5 and above.

(21)     At its 8th session (l978) the Commission decided in favour of the first recommendation but decided to make no changes in the amounts of the allowance itself (UN document A/33/30, paras. 266-275).

(22)     At its l6th session (July l982: A/37/30, paras. 236(b) and 240(b)) ICSC considered recommendations by CCAQ to adjust the amount of the assignment allowance. It decided that effective l January l983, the assignment allowance would be payable as follows:

  Single rate Dependency rate
  $ $
Europe and North America
P-1 - P-2 1 200 1 500
P-3 - P-4 1 425 1 800
P-5 and above 1 650 2 100
All other duty stations
P-1 - P-4 2 400 3 000
P-5 and above 2 850 3 600

The views of CCAQ are contained in ACC/l982/23, paras. 59-65 and Annex IV.

(23)     At its 61st session (June-July 1984: ACC/1984/16, paras. 95-98) CCAQ gave consideration to proposals to alter the arrangements governing assignment allowance, notably by restructuring the allowance in terms of its annual value, and in terms of the amounts payable at different grades. The Committee considered that further study of these questions was required; it agreed, however, that organizations might wish to pay the assignment allowance as a lump sum in the first year of assignment.

(24)     The review of the level of assignment allowance was placed on the agenda of ICSC's 24th session (July 1986) at the request of CCAQ. At its 65th session (July 1986: ACC/1986/10, paras. 68-70), CCAQ agreed to inform the Commission that rather than proposing an interim adjustment to the level of the assignment allowance, it wished to revert to the matter at the 26th session of the Commission (summer 1987) in the context of a study on mobility to be undertaken by its secretariat (see ICSC/24/R.22, para. 72). The views of CCAQ were communicated to the Commission in document ICSC/24/R.17. The Commission decided to postpone study of the matter.

(25)     At its 67th session (July 1987: ACC/1987/10, paras. 63-70), CCAQ proposed that the assignment allowance should be enhanced by a mobility element. It also recommended that, at duty stations in Europe, the United States and Canada, the basic amounts for staff at the P-1 and P-2 levels should be made equal to that currently payable to staff at the P-3 and P-4 levels (ACC/1987/PER/R.33/Add.1). ICSC approved these proposals, subject to some changes (A/42/30, para. 210). The basic level of the assignment allowance would therefore be, with effect from 1 January 1988:

  Single rate Dependency rate
  $ $
Europe, US and Canada
P-1 - P-4 1 425 1 800
P-5 and above (unchanged) 1 650 2 100

For all other duty stations, as in para. (22) above.

For staff in duty stations outside Europe, the United States and Canada who met the eligibility requirements defined by the Commission, the assignment allowance would be raised to the following levels (assignment allowance enhanced by mobility element):


  Single rate Dependency rate
  $ $
Europe, US and Canada
P-1 - P-4 4 500 7 200
P-5 and above (unchanged) 4 950 7 800

In exceptional cases, the enhanced level of the assignment allowance could be extended to staff serving in technical co-operation and humanitarian programmes in field duty stations in Europe. Implementation of this decision would be phased in over five years. (For phasing in modalities, see A/42/30, para. 210.)

(26)     Following a meeting of its field working group in November 1987, CCAQ cleared by correspondence a recommendation that service in the General Service category prior to promotion to the Professional level should be taken into account to determine eligibility for the enhanced assignment allowance, in respect of both length of service and number of duty stations, together with a related recommendation that prior service as a Junior Professional Office/Associate Expert/Associated Professional Officer should be taken into account for this purpose. Although some queries were raised about this measure insofar as it affected the General Service category, CCAQ reaffirmed its position at its 68th session. At the same time it agreed on the desirability of consultations among organizations concerned before payment of the enhanced allowance at a given field duty station in Europe (ACC/1988/4, paras. 108-110).

(27)     Following discussion of suggestions from UNHCR at CCAQ's 68th session (February-March 1988: ACC/1988/4, paras. 111, 112), UNDP and FAO agreed to present at a later session proposals on the payment of the allowance.

(28)     Under the terms of the mobility and hardship package for Professional and higher-level staff recommended by ICSC in 1989 (A/44/30, vol. II, paras. 300-333 and annex VI) and approved by the General Assembly with effect from 1 July 1990 (resolution 44/198), the assignment allowance ceased to exist. For field duty stations its mobility and field elements were incorporated in the new mobility and hardship allowance, and its furniture element in the new field assignment grant; that grant also incorporated the field entitlements under the former installation grant, and the former pre-departure allowance. For headquarters duty stations its furniture element became part of the new headquarters assignment grant, which also incorporated the daily subsistence allowance portion of the former installation grant. Details of these new arrangements are in paragraphs 306 and 323-327 of the Commission's report (A/44/30, vol. II), which were approved by the Assembly. For details, see sections 10.1 and 10.2.

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