Jindřich Fryč

We are making the civil service more attractive

Jindřich Fryč, Chief State Secretary for the Civil Service

Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive

“Jindřich Fryč became the Chief State Secretary for the Civil Service in November 2022. The first year of his work in the position was marked (among other things) by the preparation of the government’s amendment to the Civil Service Act. It was passed by the Czech government in April this year, and is now awaiting discussion in the Parliament. Will the amendment create better conditions for the functioning of the authorities, and make the civil service more attractive to the younger generation?

What will the amendment bring?

The Czech Republic (as well as all EU countries) faces low interest in working for state institutions, especially among the younger generation. We cannot wait for a miracle; we must create better conditions for the functioning of the authorities, and make the civil service more attractive in the labour market. This is our greatest challenge today. That is why the amendment to the Civil Service Act brings mainly a reduction in bureaucracy, and creates conditions for more modern and efficient functioning of state authorities. We want the civil service to be a high-quality service to the public, and for service authorities to be modern employers, capable of attracting quality employees, as well as being able to respond flexibly to current trends on the labour market, the challenges of the 21st century, and crisis situations. We are creating space for effective management of authorities, but also for the professional and personal development of civil servants. The proposed changes will allow authorities to function more openly and competently.

Let’s pause at recruitment to civil service. The possibility of exceptions to the education requirements sounds intriguing. How will this work?

We are coming up with a major conceptual change that may alter the applicant’s perception of the civil service. Although we are not completely abandoning the requirement for prior formal education, we are emphasizing that in the future, in selected positions, we will be more interested in what the applicant actually knows, what skills and knowledge he or she possesses in the particular field, and what competencies he or she has. We are reacting to the dynamic development in the labour market, where it is increasingly common that experts in certain fields (e.g. ICT, economics, data analysis, etc.) do not have formal university education, but instead prove their expertise and quality during the selection process. It is in the interest of the civil service that these professionals should also be able to work in the civil service. I believe that this change is one of the tools to open up the civil service to them.

What about the graduates from prestigious foreign universities? Will they still have to go through the lengthy process of receiving a formal recognition of their education?

We facilitate the entry into the civil service of graduates with a university degree, higher vocational education, and secondary education with a school-leaving certificate, which they have obtained by studying at schools in the Member States of the European Union, in a country being a party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein), and in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. For the purpose of entry into the civil service the formal recognition of education will no longer be required, and the education will be considered equivalent to education obtained in the Czech Republic. Graduates of these foreign schools will thus be able to enter the civil service more easily. In addition, the government may determine other universities in which the education obtained through studies will be recognised without the need for the formal recognition.

Jindřich Fryč, Chief State Secretary for the Civil Service

Does the amendment bring any other changes in the area of recruitment?

We are further simplifying the overall recruitment process. We are following the trends in the private sector, for example by allowing to submit the application and all accompanying documents fully electronically. We will put more emphasis on communication with candidates during the selection process, and before the appointment of the selected candidate.

We will also be able to consider other successful candidates in the selection processes. Currently, the selection committee chooses the three most suitable candidates. One of them will be selected for appointment, while the other two must reapply for another selection procedure if they are interested in working in the civil service. With the amendment, we want to allow the authorities to also recruit the candidates who were not selected, for a period of one year, to a similar position, without necessitating a further selection procedure. We will thus take advantage of the previously lost potential of very suitable candidates – who were not selected for a particular position because another candidate was preferred.

At the beginning of the interview, you mentioned more effective management. What is the amendment supposed to bring, in this respect?

In the area of management, the amendment will bring changes in the regulation of service discipline and performance appraisal.

Violations of service discipline will no longer be dealt with by the disciplinary committee in disciplinary proceedings, but by the state secretary in the ministry or the head of the service authority. They will issue a warning for minor breaches of service discipline, a decision on termination of service in the case of a serious breach, or a decision on immediate termination of service in the case of a particularly serious breach.

We want to move away from an over-formalised system of performance appraisal, and towards a tool for modern personnel management. We will reduce the number of areas to be evaluated, and place primary emphasis on the evaluation of service performance.

The general obligation to carry out regular performance appraisals will be removed because of the unnecessary administrative burden. We will retain the first performance appraisal, and link it to the adaptation process. We will also retain the possibility to carry out the appraisal according to the needs of the authority, or at the request of the civil servant.

Performance appraisals are one tool. Another one is the development of human capital. Does the amendment bring anything new in this regard as well?

In this respect, the amendment introduces the basis for a career system for civil servants. It should also be mentioned that the civil service differs from the private sector, among other things, in terms of compulsory civil service examinations, whose legal regulation has been completely reformulated and will be now clearer and more precise. The amended Civil Service Act will also guarantee entitlement to preparation for the civil service examination, and to compulsory study texts.

We consider it crucial to support newly appointed civil servants in their first months in the office. They will undergo a compulsory adaptation process, which will, in principle, be mandatory both on the first appointment to the civil service and also in the event of a significant change of a position – typically when a civil servant moves to another service authority. The adaptation process will serve to facilitate the entry to civil service and settling in. We are also introducing the institution of a mentor, i.e. an experienced civil servant who will guide the new civil servant through the adaptation process.

Moreover, we are putting more emphasis on the training and further development of civil servants. So far, the various areas of training have not been defined in any detail in the legislation. We are, therefore, laying down basic parameters for the training, its division into particular areas, and its framework content, directly in the Civil Service Act.

Jindřich Fryč, Chief State Secretary for the Civil Service

Can you elaborate a bit on the idea of the career system for civil servants? How should we understand this term?

The career system opens the way for better motivation and recognition of a high-quality performance by civil servants who are not in managerial positions. Since high professional standards are placed on them, our aim is to enable them to ‘advance their career’ within the area of their expertise, taking into account their skills, knowledge, and performance. We hope to achieve an improvement in the performance of the authority towards the public, as well as an increased attractiveness of civil service to new and existing civil servants. The career system will also bring new formal designations for civil servants. Our aim is therefore to strengthen the career status of civil servants, and also to make greater use than before of HR elements such as talent management.

The thing often criticized in connection with the Civil Service Act is its high financial demands. Is this issue also targeted in the amendment?

The saving of public funds will be achieved by modifying or introducing certain operations, in particular by shortening the period of the non-active status of civil servants from 6 to 3 months, and by tightening the conditions related to severance pay upon termination of service (e.g. reduction of the amount of severance pay, or extension of the duration of service for entitlement to severance pay). Savings will also be achieved in the activities of the HR departments by streamlining their processes – in many cases it will no longer be necessary to issue decisions, and instead more efficient ways of delivery will be introduced (such as possibly delivering those via e-mail, etc).

The Civil Service Section led by you will be transferred from the Ministry of the Interior to the Office of the Government. Will that help?

The position of the Civil Service Section will change to some extent with the relocation to the Office of the Government. Its role in the civil service system, which exceeds the scope of any particular ministry, will become more apparent. The aim is to remove a form of ‘resortism’, and thus to emphasise the coordinating role of the Civil Service Section in relation to other service authorities.

The civil service in the Czech Republic will soon ”celebrate” its 10th anniversary. This amendment to the Civil Service Act brings about a significant simplification and transformation of selected attributes of the civil service, which have proven over the years to be insufficiently efficient or administratively demanding in practice. But it is also an amendment modernising the civil service environment, and bringing it closer to the private sector.

I see this as an essential prerequisite for increasing the attractiveness of civil service in the labour market, and attracting new civil servants, as well as motivating existing ones.