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Temporary mobility of voluntary civil servants during COVID situations, Linda Ameur, SIGMA webinar, 15 December 2020


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Supporting paper by Linda Ait Ameur, Belgium, on temporary mobility of voluntary civil servants during crisis situations, presented at the SIGMA webinar on "Are human resource management practices resilient and agile enough to address the next COVID-like crisis?", held on 15 December 2020.

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Temporary mobility of voluntary civil servants during COVID situations, Linda Ameur, SIGMA webinar, 15 December 2020

  1. 1. 2 Rue André Pascal 75775 Paris Cedex 16 France Tel: +33 (0) 1 45 24 82 00 This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union (EU). It should not be reported as representing the official views of the EU, the OECD or its member countries, or of partners participating in the SIGMA Programme. The opinions expressed and arguments employed are those of the authors. This document, as well as any data and any map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. © OECD 2020 – The use of this material, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found on the OECD website page TEMPORARY MOBILITY OF VOLUNTARY CIVIL SERVANTS DURING CRISIS SITUATIONS – “SPECIAL FEDERAL FORCES” (2020) Linda Ait Ameur, Director HR and central services, Federal Agency for Nuclear Control, Belgium Why: What was the problem, what did not work? Why was there a need for such a solution? At some point, a public service may need additional resources for specific needs rapidly. In the public service, established regulations and recruitment and selection processes may sometimes be too rigid to respond to these kinds of staffing needs, which require a rapid and usually temporary solution. For example, as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, more than one million Belgians were forced into temporary unemployment. Within the public body that regulates unemployment allowances, a very large number of files accumulated and had to be processed in order to ensure the payment of allowances. The public organisation did not have sufficient staff to ensure the process and the payments. What? Description of a tool/solution Since 2012, "special federal forces" have been created to temporarily deploy volunteer civil servants throughout the federal administration. In real terms, this allows a public service to temporarily call on the expertise of volunteer civil servants from another organisation, rather than having to urgently and temporarily recruit or call on temporary workers. The “special federal forces” make it possible to increase the internal mobility of federal civil servants. The principle is simple: a public service may need additional staff for specific projects. In concrete terms, organisations looking for candidates via the "Special Federal Forces" call on the federal administration's central selection office (Selor), which uses its communication channels (, mailing, social networks, press, etc.) to draw attention to missions and find suitable volunteers. As these are temporary missions that are often very varied, there is no standard procedure. The selection procedure is fully described in the job description. It is much shorter than a standard procedure. As a general rule, interested civil servants simply volunteer through the system. If they fit the profile, they ask for their employer's agreement and can participate in the temporary assignment. The salary remains entirely at the expense of the public organisation of origin.
  2. 2. 2 What results: what were the benefits of the solution, how does it work in practice, lessons learnt This system proved its worth during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide a solution to temporarily overstretched services. This was particularly the case for the processing of unemployment allowances. Public administration agents who were less affected by the peak in activity during the crisis could be made available to the unemployment allowances payment agency on a voluntary basis. The unemployment allowances payment agency was supported by more than a hundred agents from other services and organisations who volunteered their services. The staff who volunteered to provide support focused on the encoding of files and the payment of allowances. The possibilities offered by the regulations that allow for the use of this solution and the solidarity between civil servants deserve to be highlighted, as they allow a rapid response to an exceptional need. The number of applications had doubled, but the use of this solution meant that 78% of the applications submitted in March had already been processed in April. The “special federal forces” solution also strengthens flexibility and the motivation of civil servants.