EU agency offers free holidays in Amsterdam to help sway staff move

LONDON — The European Medicines Agency is sending staff on holiday to the Netherlands to persuade them what a great place it will be to live.

The agency, which is relocating from London to Amsterdam in March because of Brexit, is covering the cost of a two-night trip for staff and their partners — plus a guided tour of neighborhoods — to help employees decide if they could plant roots there.

Noël Wathion, the EMAs Brexit lead, said in an interview Wednesday that while he could not quantify the impact of the visits, the EMA believes they are proving “very useful” as it attempts to keep staff on board.

“Its a short visit but nevertheless it shows you [what the Netherlands is like to live in],” Wathion said. The agency is also offering free Dutch language lessons for EMA staff, their partners and children.

The number of staff forecast to stay has been on an upward trend since providing these incentives, Wathion said.

Staff are not just moving to Amsterdam but all over the Netherlands, he said, including to Leiden, the Hague and Utrecht.

The latest estimates show 24 percent of the EMAs roughly 900 staff — including shorter-term and longer-term contracts — are forecast to leave, although he said that figure changes daily.

That would leave around 216 vacant posts. Around 100 of these are people on short-term contracts, such as maternity cover, which would not relocate, he said. In August, a survey found 30 percent were expected to leave.

The agency has received more than 5,000 job applications for the vacancies, Wathion said. The agency is also putting together a reserve list of candidates who have passed interviews and would be willing to work in Amsterdam if certain jobs become available.

“We cant wait and see,” Wathion said. The agency has asked staff to inform them as soon as possible if they plan to leave.

Relocation underway

Sixty staff have already moved to the Netherlands. The Spark building in Amsterdam will house the EMA from January until its permanent home, the newly named “EMA Building,” is ready in November.

These are primarily employees with children who wanted to move early for the start of a new school year, Wathion said.

These “early movers” are also influencing other staff members. “We have positive feedback and people say, it seems to be working,” he said.

Wathion said the bulk of staff are expected to relocate in January and February. However, the agency has also adapted its flexible working policies to allow people to move later during 2019, for example for parents of children that need to sit for school exams.

Staff are not just moving to Amsterdam but all over the Netherlands, he said, including to Leiden, the Hague and Utrecht.

Despite the sheer complexity of decoupling the U.K.s expertise from the agency, sharing out its workload and relocating all operations, Wathion sounded more upbeat about the process than in previous interviews.

He said the agency has adopted a mantra for the relocation: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the agencys relocation mantra, and misstated when the EMA will be housed in the Spark building.

Original Article


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