Termination on health grounds in relation to disability benefits

(1)     In 1960, in consequence of the report of the Pension Review Group, the Pension Board referred to CCAQ the problem of discontinuance of disability benefits of persons who were not re-employed by the organization. At the first part of its 22nd session (April 1961: CO-ORDINATION/R.351, paras. 28-30) CCAQ expressed the view that no legal or financial responsibility existed for an organization towards a former employee who had been terminated on health grounds with a disability benefit, and whose benefit was stopped by the Pension Fund when he recovered. The organizations said they would deal sympathetically with such cases, but suggested that the Pension Board itself might alleviate the financial difficulties of the persons concerned by eliminating the requirement that amounts paid in disability benefit be deducted from any eventual withdrawal settlement. They suggested also, with a reservation by UNESCO, that the Pension Board might consider extending disability benefit for three or six months after recovery, if the person concerned had no employment in that period.

(2)     At its 24th session (1963: CO-ORDINATION/R.430, paras. 46-49) CCAQ discussed an invitation from the Pension Board (see CO-ORDINATION/CC.24/5) to consider amending termination procedures to ensure that decisions to terminate appointments for health reasons and proposals for disability benefits were based on the same medical conclusions. This Pension Board recommendation had been endorsed by the Fifth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. The views of the organizations varied. The Committee noted that only in WHO did the rules provide a direct link between the two sets of circumstances, in that the staff rules specified that an official would not normally be terminated on health grounds before the WHO Staff Pension Committee had considered whether or not the official would be eligible for a disability pension. CCAQ discussed whether such a rule could be applied in all organizations, but was unable to reach agreement. It was decided that Staff Office should be instructed to prepare a report of the existing practice within each organization, and the matter would be reconsidered at the 25th session. The Committee would at the same time consider the advisability of recommending a revision of the JSPF Regulation on disability to limit the scope of the disability to a particular kind or kinds of work.

(3)     At its 25th session (1964: CO-ORDINATION/R.451, paras. 62-64) CCAQ examined the Staff Office study (CO-ORDINATION/CC/SO/80 and Add.1). Most organizations felt that circumstances did arise where termination on health grounds could be justified even though no disability benefit would be payable. If this were not to be so, it would be necessary to introduce new grounds for termination in staff regulations, and this might be open to other objections. It was agreed that the matter could not fruitfully be further pursued in CCAQ.

(4)     At its 27th session CCAQ agreed (1966: CO-ORDINATION/R.532, para. 53) that a renewed effort should be made to resolve the problem: see also CO-ORDINATION/CC/SO/160.

(5)     (a) At its 28th session (1967: CO-ORDINATION/R.604, paras. 42-44) CCAQ noted that there was now general agreement that circumstances sometimes justified termination on health grounds despite an absence of entitlement to a disability benefit. They included, for example, cases where a staff member was unable, because of a health condition, to work satisfactorily in the only place where the organization had a suitable post available, but was otherwise fit to earn his own living.

     (b)     The Committee had a preliminary exchange of views on suggestions made, with the object of:

  1. distinguishing in the staff rules between terminations on health grounds which would lead to a disability pension and those which would not;
  2. ensuring, so far as possible, that entitlements were ascertained before termination action was taken.

     It was agreed that the considered views of organizations on these suggestions should be sent to Staff Office by 30 September 1967. If there then appeared to be a reasonable prospect that a generally acceptable solution could be found, a working party should be called before the 1968 session of CCAQ to formulate that solution. The Pension Board secretariat should be brought fully into the discussions.

(6)     At its 29th session (March 1968: CO-ORDINATION/R.669, paras. 43-44) CCAQ noted that some organizations had already succeeded in giving effect to the principles in (5) above while others intended to do so. Others felt that their present rules were satisfactory and required no change. As the matter was procedural rather than substantive, CCAQ decided not to pursue it.

     At its 30th session (March 1969: CO-ORDINATION/R.733, para. 78) CCAQ, as a result of observations made in the Pension Board, again considered policy regarding re-employment of a disability pensioner if and when his disability ceases. It reaffirmed that in the circumstances of international organizations there could be no outright obligation to re-employ a former staff member who had been terminated because of disability even if the disability ceased. Cases should be treated on their merits.

(8)     At its 33rd session (August 1984: JSPB/33/R.49), paras. 12-14), the Pension Board considered the date of commencement of a disability benefit. It requested CCAQ to consider whether, when a staff member was medically unfit for duty at the time of the expiry of his fixed-term contract, an organization should be required to extend his contract until his sick leave entitlement was exhausted. The Pension Board noted that in most cases contracts were in fact extended, even if organizations were under no legal obligation to do so. It agreed that pending the outcome of CCAQ's deliberations, the Secretary should implement future awards of disability benefits as of the participant's date of separation, even if all sick leave entitlements had not been exhausted.

(9)     At its 60th (March 1984: ACC/1984/9, paras. 92-94) and 63rd sessions (July 1985: ACC/1985/14, paras. 58-60), CCAQ gave consideration to a WHO proposal to abolish the practice whereby indemnities paid in cases of termination on health grounds were reduced by the amount of any disability benefit awarded by the Pension Fund, by any compensation payments for service-incurred illness or injury, and by any other payments from accident or sickness insurance, where these existed. Since the concept involved was that of income replacement, it appeared to most organizations irrelevant whether, as in the case under discussion, the income replacement derived from two sources, or from only one. It was agreed that the proposal formulated could not be endorsed, and WHO was asked to carry out consultations with other organizations to see if an alternative could be envisaged (see also section 5.4, para. (24)).

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