International Staff Members (ISM)

Conditions of Employment at ESO

This document summarises the conditions of employment for International Staff Members (ISM) at the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

It is intended for information only to give potential applicants a general overview of the working conditions at ESO. The full details are given in the International Staff Rules and Regulations (SRR) and other official documents, which formally define the working relationship of International Staff Members with the Organisation. On receiving a job offer, applicants will be given copies of these documents.

As ESO is an intergovernmental organisation, its conditions of employment for ISM are independent of German, Chilean, and European Union labour law.

A comprehensive compensation package that supports work-life balance

ESO offers a comprehensive and competitive package of salary, allowances, grants and an attractive social security scheme. In addition, ESO aims to support members of personnel in maintaining a good work-life balance between their professional and private life.

For details of these general aspects of working at ESO, please see the sections “General conditions” and “Work-life balance”.

Creating a family-friendly workplace

ESO is committed to being a family-friendly workplace, creating a work environment and policies which allow staff to balance their professional and private responsibilities through flexible working arrangements and financial support for families.

For details of ESO’s measures to support families, please see the section “Family-Friendly Support”.

General conditions

Duty stations

ESO has establishments, known as duty stations, which are located in:
Germany: Garching bei München
Chile: La Silla, Paranal, Santiago, Sequitor, ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF)

Duration of appointment

The contract for an ISM is for a fixed-term duration of usually three years, and is subject to a successful pre-employment medical examination and to successful completion of the probation period.

Under certain circumstances there is the possibility of contract extension(s), subject to individual performance and organisational requirements, and as defined in the applicable policies and staff rules and regulations. Please note that the contract policy and in particular the regulations concerning fixed-term and indefinite contracts are currently under review which may lead to changes in contractual conditions.

Basic salaries

ESO has a salary structure consisting of a series of grades from 2 to 14. Within each grade, there is a series of steps from 0 to 15 (in grades 2 to 4), 0 to 13 (in grades 5 to 12), 0 to 10 (in grade 13), or 0 to 7 (in grade 14).

Initial grade and step, and therefore salary, is determined in relation to the position and a candidate's qualifications and experience, and is set at the time of the appointment.

The basic salary refers to the salary before the deduction of contributions for healthcare and pension scheme, and before the payment of any additional allowances.

The salaries of ISM are reviewed annually by ESO’s governing bodies, and may be adjusted taking into account cost of living changes. The salaries of ISM with duty station in Chile are further adjusted monthly, according to the cost of living differential between Santiago de Chile and Munich.

As part of the annual Performance Management and Professional Development process, and the associated Advancement process, there is the possibility for ISM to progress through the salary step and grade structure.

Due to ESO’s status as an intergovernmental organisation, no income tax is payable for member state nationals. Instead, an internal tax is withheld at source.

Working hours per week

The basic working schedule is 40 hours a week on average. The specific working schedule and hours of work may vary according to the duty station.

Health Insurance Scheme

The ESO health scheme provides private worldwide healthcare insurance for medical expenses of ISM and their dependent family members. The monthly healthcare insurance contribution that the staff member pays is independent of the number of dependent family members.

Long Term Care Insurance Scheme (LTC)

The LTC scheme provides financial support to ISM, and their dependent family members, who are in need of assistance over an extended period of time due to an impairment of their ability to function independently in daily life.

Unemployment Insurance

ISM are entitled to unemployment insurance benefits if they are without employment immediately after their appointments terminate, subject to certain conditions.

If the appropriate conditions are met, unemployment benefit will be paid for up to 6 or 12 months, depending on the staff member’s length of service. This is normally between 70% and 80% of the final basic salary.

Salary during sick leave

An ISM’s salary continues to be paid during absences due to sickness, with certain limits and conditions. If the appropriate conditions are met, including the submission of a medical certificate, the rules allow in the first instance for up to 12 months of sick leave on full pay within a period of 36 months. Additional rules apply after this.

Pension Scheme

The ESO pension scheme, which is part of the CERN Pension Fund, incorporates a defined benefits pension and insurance provisions for death, (occupational and non-occupational) disability and injury. All ISM are compulsorily insured at the time of appointment.

A member of the pension fund with at least five years of service is entitled to a retirement pension. For less than five years of service, a transfer value may be either paid into another pension scheme or paid to the staff member.

The retirement age is 67 years.

The retirement pension is calculated as a proportion of an ISM’s average basic salary during their final 36 months, taking into account other factors including years of service and age.

Although — as described in the Basic Salaries section — no income tax is payable on ESO salaries under most circumstances, the retirement pension may be taxable, depending on the retiree’s place of residence and tax situation.

More information about the CERN Pension Fund is available on its website.

Annual Leave

Annual leave entitlement for ISM is 2 1/2 working days per month (30 days per year). The leave year runs from 1 April to 31 March of the following year.

Official Holidays

The following days are official holidays for ISM with duty station in Garching: 1 January, 6 January, Good Friday, Easter Monday, 1 May, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Corpus Christi, 15 August, 3 October, 1 November, 25 December and 26 December.

The following days are official holidays for ISM with duty station in Chile: 1 January, Good Friday, Good Saturday, 1 May, 21 May, 29 June, 16 July, 15 August, 18 September, 19 September, 12 October, 1 November 8 December, 25 December and 26 December.

Home Leave

Once every two years in Garching and every year in Chile, an expatriated ISM is entitled to a home leave return trip to his or her “home station” (typically the staff member’s home state or place of residence at the time of appointment). ESO pays the expenses of the journey for staff and their family within certain limits.

Expatriation Allowance

A monthly expatriation allowance is payable to ISM under certain circumstances. The rate is calculated as a percentage of the staff member’s basic salary, within certain limits.

Mountain Allowance (Chile only)

A mountain allowance is payable to ISM with duty station La Silla, Paranal, Sequitor, or OSF.

  • ISM receiving household allowance (see “Family-Friendly Support” section below): 20% of the basic salary
  • ISM not receiving household allowance: 10% of the basic salary

The amount of the mountain allowance listed above applies when the regular amount of working time is spent on the mountain. The amount paid is adjusted according to actual time spent on the mountain.

Joining expenses

Newly appointed ISM residing more than 50 km from the duty station before their appointment are entitled to be paid travel expenses for themselves and their families, removal expenses, and an installation allowance. Additional information on the importation of household goods (personal effects, cars, etc.) to the duty station can be obtained from Human Resources.

Initial accommodation for new arrivals

ESO has a few fully furnished apartments (1 room to 3 rooms) in Garching. Subject to availability, these apartments can serve as a temporary solution for newly appointed ISM. The rental period also depends on availability and is usually for a maximum of three months. The cost of the apartment is charged to the staff member and deducted through the monthly payroll.

Newly appointed ISM in Chile are accommodated for free in the ESO Guesthouse for the first night and receive free lodging in a furnished apartment for up to five weeks (35 nights)

German Language Training in Garching / Spanish Language Training in Chile

ESO offers newly appointed ISM and their spouses in-house language training at the beginner’s level. The aim of the course is to provide them with the language skills to help them deal with their everyday life and to settle in to their new environment.

Work-Life Balance

Flexitime system

ESO operates a flexible working time scheme in Garching and Santiago, according to which eligible ISM may vary the time of their arrival, breaks and departure, from day to day.

Mobile working

With the agreement of one’s supervisor, and if circumstances allow it, a mobile working policy is available for eligible ISM in Garching and Santiago to do some of their work outside of the ESO premises, for example at home. The scheme provides for the possibility to do mobile working up to eight days per calendar month and in addition to 18 additional days per calendar year. Other than when periods of mission or sick leave shall preclude it, staff are expected to work on-site at their duty station for the equivalent of at least five working days per calendar month.

Part-time work

If permitted by circumstances the Organisation may offer part-time appointments. During the first three years of age of a dependent child the possibility to work part-time becomes an entitlement. The working week for part-time appointments cannot be less than 20 hours.

Family-Friendly Support

Health insurance for dependent family members at no additional cost:

As described in the general Health Insurance Scheme section, the ESO healthcare scheme covers dependent family members as well as the ISM at no additional cost. The monthly contribution that the staff member pays is independent of the number of dependent family members.

Household Allowance:

ISM who are married, or in a legally registered partnership, or who are entitled to children’s allowance receive a monthly household allowance.

Children’s Allowance:

ISM receive a monthly children’s allowance for each dependent child. There is additionally a monthly supplementary children’s allowance for expatriated children, up to the age of 4 years at the latest, if no education grant is paid.

Education reimbursements for children from the age of 6 months:

For the dependent children of ISM, ESO reimburses 75% of school fees and fees of officially recognised childcare establishments, subject to certain conditions and limits.

Special Leave in the event of serious illness of a close relative:

An ISM may take up to 10 working days of special paid leave per leave year in the event of serious illness of their close relatives (i.e. dependent children, spouse and parents).

Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Parental Leave

ISM with new children have the following entitlements:

Maternity Leave: entitlement to 18 weeks paid maternity leave, or 21 weeks in cases of multiple or premature births, or as of the birth of a second child.

Paternity Leave: entitlement to 10 working days paid paternity leave. It can be taken in half days or full days.

Adoption Leave: entitlement to 4 weeks’ paid adoption leave for each child up to 18 years of age. For adopted children under 6 years of age, the period of adoption leave is extended to 18 weeks.

Parental Leave: entitlement after maternity leave, paternity leave or adoption leave. For births, the entitlement applies until the child is 3 years old. For adoption of a child under 6 years of age, the entitlement applies until the end of the third year of the child’s placement under the care of the member of personnel. Parental leave is partially paid for 6 months during the first year of age of the child. Further parental leave is unpaid.

Part-time work

During the first three years of age of a dependent child the possibility to work part-time described in the section “Work-life balance” becomes an entitlement.

Help in finding professionals for childcare in the Munich area

Finding suitable childcare in the Munich area can be challenging for parents. ESO has an agreement with a “Familienagentur” to provide additional support when places are not available at the IPP/ESO Kinderkrippe/Kindergarten childcare facility on the campus, or where staff are looking for other childcare services for any reason.

Other Information

For additional information, please contact:

ESO Garching
Human Resources
Karl-Schwarzschild-Straße 2
85748 Garching bei München / Germany
+49 89 320 06 217 

ESO Chile
Human Resources
Av. Alonso de Córdova 3107, comuna de Vitacura
Santiago, Chile
Phone: +56 2 4633000

ESO Recruitment Portal

Human Resources
Document last updated: 28 September 2018