Registered partnerships

In recent decades, family patterns have changed significantly. National laws have taken these changes into account, recognizing new forms of unions, different to heterosexual marriage. Indeed, recently some countries have given the possibility to same-sex couples to enter into various forms of unions. Staff regulations of international organizations are not directly affected by national laws, but in the context of diversity policies, the lack of recognition of these new forms of unions, may appear to discriminate based on sexual orientation and to limit the freedom of choosing marital status.

A study by the International Service for Remunerations and Pensions (iSRP) of the OECD in January 2015 (PROS Report (1015) 04) shows that in comparison with other international organizations, CERN offers the least favorable social conditions for its Staff with in a registered partnership. As part of the Five-year review in 2015, it is important that CERN aligns itself with the practice of these other organizations and grants the same rights and obligations to Staff with a registered partnership, as to married couples.

All international organizations in the study, recognize registered civil partnership, but to varying degrees. CERN Article S IV 1.02 of the Staff Regulations defines “partner” as follows: "any person linked to an employed member of the personnel by a partnership officially registered in a Member State. Partners are regarded as family members for the purposes of protection against the financial consequences of illness and accidents”.

CERN therefore only offers health insurance coverage to partners, while other organizations give them more rights.

The Staff Association considers that CERN should grant the same rights to recognized partners as to married spouses. Indeed, most international organizations give the same family allowances whatever the type of recognized union. CERN, on the contrary, limits family benefits to married couples, including those with no children, but refuses to give these benefits to couples in registered partnerships, even if they have a child of the dependent partner. Moving expenses and travel expenses, as well as any installation allowance and resettlement are paid based on the number of people family members. Since at CERN partners are only recognized as family members for the health and accident insurance, these costs are not reimbursed fully for families in partnership; again, this process of differentiation should disappear, granting the same rights to couples in registered partnerships as to married couples.

As to the surviving spouse or partner, the situation varies. Some organizations give the same benefits to pension payout whether a surviving spouse or registered partner, whereas this is not the case in other organizations. At CERN, only a surviving spouse would receive a pension, a registered partner does not have this right. To grant the same rights to the partners, it would be enough to substitute “spouse” with “partner” in the Rules and Regulations of the CERN Pension Fund.

The recognition of registered partnership is even more urgent as in several Member States the discrimination between married couples and registered partners is legally prohibited.

Other aspects to improve diversity

The five-yearly review is the time when CERN has the possibility to review its social and financial conditions.

In the comparative study mentioned earlier, we found that CERN is not at the forefront and must evolve and modernize its still very conservative family policy. Four working groups of the Standing Consultation Committee, led by the group leader of the diversity group in the Human Resources Department, are currently working in the following areas:

  • recognition of registered partnerships;
  • professional and social integration of the spouse;
  • leave for family reasons;
  • work and private life balance.

Based on the results of the OECD study and a staff survey, these groups prepare proposals taking into account, and building on, what is happening in other international organizations and in the member states.

There is no doubt, that a more attractive diversity program at CERN will allow our organization to continue to attract and retain new talent with the most diverse profiles.

by Staff Association