Human resources terminology

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This is a guide to commonly-used human resources terminology at the United Nations. Personnel-related budget terminology is covered in a separate page on budget terminology.

Contractual modalities

The existing contractual modalities were established under General Assembly resolution 63/250.

Continuing appointment

A continuing appointment is an open-ended appointment.[1] Eligibility for continuing appointments is governed by the terms of General Assembly resolution 65/247.

Fixed-term appointment

An appointment granted for a period of one year or more, up to five years at a time, to persons recruited for service of a prescribed duration, including persons temporarily seconded by national Governments or institutions for service with the United Nations. May be renewed for any period up to five years at a time. Does not carry any expectancy, legal or otherwise, of renewal or conversion, irrespective of the length of service.[2]

Temporary appointment

An appointment for a period of less than one year to meet seasonal or peak workloads and specific short-term requirements. May be renewed for up to one additional year when warranted by surge requirements and operational needs related to field operations and special projects with finite mandates. Does not carry any expectancy, legal or otherwise, of renewal. Cannot be converted to any other type of appointment.[3]
There are two general types of temporary appointments: those for which a selection process was conducted following the posting of a temporary job opening (TJO) and those of less than three months for which no formal process is required (TA).

Defunct modalities

Appointment of limited duration

An appointment under the former 300-series staff rules intended for peacekeeping, peacemaking, humanitarian, technical cooperation and emergency operations. An appointment of limited duration (ALD) was normally for an initial period of up to six months, extended for up to four years, after a break in service of at least six months was required before eligibility for a new ALD.[4]

Permanent appointment

An appointment under the former 100-series staff rules to staff members who completed a period of probationary service (or had the probationary service waived) or completed five years of continuous service under fixed-term appointments.[5]



When a post is vacant, another officer, at the same or lower level, may be assigned to the post in an acting capacity. An acting officer assumes the full functions of the post until confirmed, promoted or reassigned.[6]


When a post is encumbered and the incumbent is temporarily absent, an officer-in charge (OIC) is designated, usually by the incumbent of the post, to act as responsible officer during the period of absence. An OIC may in theory be at any level and there is no requirement that the next most senior officer be designated or that the delegation be rotated amongst officers of similar level. Depending on the circumstances, an OIC may or may not carry the full responsibilities of the post but would normally have signatory authority. It is understood to be a temporary designation and not an assignment to the post, and carries no expectancy of eventual assignment.[7]

Special post allowance

A non-pensionable special post allowance (SPA) may be granted, pursuant to staff rule 3.10, to a staff member holding a fixed-term or continuing appointment is called on to assume the full duties and responsibilities of a post at a clearly recognizable higher level than his or her own for a temporary period exceeding three months. For staff in non-mission settings, this allowance is payable from the beginning of the fourth month of service at the higher level; for staff in mission settings, this allowance may be paid immediately when the staff member assumes the higher duties and responsibilities. The amount of the allowance shall be equivalent to the salary increase which the staff member would have received had the staff member been promoted to the next higher level.[8]
Staff members temporarily assigned to higher-level vacant or temporarily vacant posts are eligible for SPA.[9]

Inter-agency mobility

A number of modalities exist by which staff expertise may be drawn upon between organizations of the United Nations common system. These are set out in the 2012 Inter-organization agreement concerning transfer, secondment or loan of staff among the organizations applying the United Nations common system of salaries and allowances.

The Joint Inspection Unit undertook a review of staff exchange and similar inter-agency mobility measures in 2019; its recommendations are contained in its report JIU/REP/2019/8.


The movement of a staff member from one organization to another for a limited period, normally not exceeding one year, during which the staff member will be subject to the administrative supervision of the receiving organization but will continue to be subject to the staff regulations and rules of the releasing organization.


The movement of a staff member from one organization to another for a fixed period, normally not exceeding two years, during which the staff member will normally be paid by and be subject to the staff regulations and rules of the receiving organization, but will retain his or her rights of employment in the releasing organization. The period of secondment may be extended for a further fixed period by agreement among all the parties concerned.
Secondment can also be used to refer to the arrangement by which active-duty military and police officers are recruited against designated posts. For details on this arrangement, please see the separate article on seconded personnel.


The movement of a staff member from one organization to another under conditions which give the staff member no right to return to the releasing organization.

See also


  1. Staff rule 4.14 (continuing appointment); ST/AI/2012/3 Administration of continuing appointments
  2. Staff rule 4.13 (fixed-term appointment); ST/AI/2013/1 and Corr.1 Administration of fixed-term appointments
  3. Staff rule 4.12 (temporary appointment); ST/AI/2010/4, Corr.1 and Rev.1 Administration of temporary appointments
  4. Former staff rule 301.1; ST/AI/2001/2 Appointments of limited duration
  5. Former staff rule 104.13
  6. Memo, dated 9 June 1993, on Use of the terms "Officer-in-Charge and Acting"
  7. Memo, dated 9 June 1993, on Use of the terms "Officer-in-Charge and Acting"
  8. Staff rule 3.10 (special post allowance)
  9. ST/AI/1999/17 and Amend.1 Special post allowance and ST/AI/2003/3 Special post allowance for mission staff