Background

The Vice-Chair of ICSC informed HLCM that on 12 November the 5th Committee of the General Assembly would start its deliberations on the ICSC recommendation to increase the Mandatory Age of Separation (MAS) to age 65 for current staff members. He explained that the recommendation was made after a study conducted by an external consultant, and that the concerns expressed by organizations had been partially taken into account by suggesting a deferred implementation to 1 January 2016.

The Co-Chair of the HR Network briefed HLCM on the discussion at the last ICSC session. She reported on the strong concerns expressed by organizations on the ICSC recommendation, pointing out that many organizations are currently at different stages in organizational and workforce realignment efforts, and that the current arrangements for mandatory age of retirement are facilitating the workforce planning in these situations. While the delayed implementation date of 1 January 2016 was welcomed as a step in the right direction, she indicated that, in the opinion of the Network, the recommendation did not provide sufficiently convincing arguments on its objectives and solid evidence of its benefits.

Discussion

The Staff Federations confirmed their strong support to the ICSC recommendation, which is consistent with evident external trends. In the opinion of the Federations, a coherent implementation of the ICSC recommendation would represent and important stress test for the Common System in keeping the purpose and principles of Articles 100 and 101 of the UN Charter. They also expressed the views that the Mandatory age of Separation should not be used as a tool for managing performance, and stated their disappointment with the deferral of the suggested implementation date to 2016. Prior to the closing of the open session, the Staff Federations expressed disappointment and concern due to the unsatisfactory status of staff/management relations in most organizations of the UN common system.  They informed of their joint initiative to bring this to the attention of the Fifth Committee.

During the discussion, many organizations indicated that a compelling argument in support of the recommendation to increase the Mandatory Age of Separation to age 65 for current staff members had not been made by the Commission. Furthermore, they raised concerns about the level and quality of consultations with organizations during the preparatory study. Others stressed the fact that the implementation of the recommendation would considerably increase complexities in workforce planning, including for gender balance. The acquisition of new skills and talents could be slowed down significantly by the proposed change, also given the low turnover rate in UN System organisations. It was emphasized that Mandatory Age of Separation was not a performance management tool, but an instrument to drive the normal adjustment of the overall workforce to acquire the right skills and achieve geographical and gender balance as requested by Member States. Specialized Agencies pointed to the fact that any decision regarding MAS could only be implemented system-wide after deliberations by their respective Governing Bodies.

Action

The committee:

  • Took note of the ICSC recommendation to increase the Mandatory Age of Separation for existing staff to 65 as of 1st January 2016.
  • Stressed that reduced attrition rates would impact the organizations' ability to improve geographic representation and gender balance, and may impede the organizational and work force realignment and planning which many organizations are undergoing, also in response to budgetary decisions taken by Member States.
  • Recommended that Executive Heads of organizations consult with Member States to ensure that they are provided with the necessary flexibility to phase in MAS65 for existing staff in a way that would enable smooth organizational and workforce planning, according to individual organizational needs.