Leaving CERN

I see CERN as one of the best employers I’ve ever worked for. Not only is the Organization incredibly active at the forefront of modern science, trying to answer some of the most challenging questions about our universe, but it also has a great organisational culture which I regularly try to share in this blog. I am always impressed to see how much staff, graduates, students, and partners are committed to a common objective, and I feel grateful for working here.

I’m not the only one. In 2009, a survey was undertaken by our HR Department and the University of Psychology in Lyon, and found out that 97.2% of CERN employees were proud to work here – a percentage the senior researcher leading the survey had never seen in his career. More recently, on a famous site where employees and former employees can anonymously review companies, one could see that 90% of them would recommend CERN to a friend.

As a result, a very limited number of employees are resigning, and I imagine there is a huge number of my colleagues who would like to spend their whole career at CERN. But like most international organisations, CERN has a limited duration contract policy for newcomers and there is sadly a moment where some employees have to leave. We do care, and in this month’s post I wanted to focus on what we do to facilitate their way out, so that they can fully enjoy their time at CERN without worrying too much about the next move.

CERN has always put an emphasis on Education, which is one of the key strands of its mission. In addition to sharing knowledge and discoveries with the wider public, we also provide our members of personnel with the opportunity to follow a number of training courses focused on technical and behavioural competencies. So while working at CERN, you can continue to grow and build up your skills for your future career. Even your spouse/partner could benefit from it, and learn languages! A formal training has also been specifically designed for career transition measures, which can be compared to an outplacement service managed by an external provider (coach). Topics discussed include a CV clinic, tips for job hunting, as well as advice on networking and interview techniques.

At the end of their limited duration contract, some employed members of personnel are entitled to additional indemnities such as a reinstallation indemnity (under certain specific conditions, the indemnity could represent up to several times the basic monthly salary). If a staff member does not resign until the end of his or her limited duration contract and if it is not followed by an indefinite contract, a termination indemnity may also be granted, in which case, payment of one half of a month’s basic salary per completed year of uninterrupted service as a staff member may be paid.

As an Intergovernmental organisation, CERN is governed by its own rules and regulations. Employed members of personnel are considered to be international civil servants and therefore, are not entitled to Swiss or French unemployment benefits. However, CERN has in place an unemployment insurance scheme to which former staff members may be eligible. As a result, under certain conditions, the Organization may pay former staff members unemployment benefit, for a maximum of 60 weeks.

Full details of your entitlements will be provided if you receive a formal offer letter, and if further clarifications are needed, you can still contact the HR Department.

I appreciate that it is sometimes a difficult decision to quit a permanent contract to accept a 5–year’ staff post here at CERN, where there is no guarantee of an extension. One could argue that every career move is a bet: you know what you’re leaving, and you’re not sure what you will find. CERN remains an employer with an excellent reputation, both locally and internationally, and people working here have the opportunity to (net)work with experts from around the world. Whatever the duration of your contract at CERN will be, this experience will always be highly considered by future employers.

So, if you have just received a formal offer from CERN, keep calm and Take Part!