Updated 26 May 2020
A secondment is the opportunity to work temporarily in a different firm or department to the one you are already working in.
In an internal secondment, the employee moves to a different part of the same organisation.
In an external secondment, the employee temporarily works at a different organisation.
There is no set time frame for a secondment.
Secondments help employees develop their skills, broaden their horizons and improve their CV.
The seconded individual’s employer benefits from the additional skills and experience that are brought back into the business.
Secondments are often offered to employees by other departments within the same business – or by another company within the same group.
More rarely, the secondment role is with a separate company, via an external secondment. Even then, there is usually some sort of connection between the two businesses, like a commercial partnership.
An internal secondment can be an informal arrangement between departments – even if the wage changes, the individual is paid in the same way, so there is little paperwork to be done.
When the secondment is external, the relationship between the employer and the employee is more complicated, as a third party is involved. Therefore, it’s important to ensure the terms are made clear in writing before an external secondment begins.
If the secondment is external, the original employer usually remains the official employer of the secondee; the idea is that the original employer is ‘lending’ the other company its employee.
In some external secondments the original company pays the salary, but it is more common for the host company to take care of this.
A specific secondment agreement should be drawn up after a review of the individual’s current contract. In the new agreement, legal rights should be clarified. It should be clear which employer is liable for the seconded individual.
There are different reasons why a secondment might be offered by an employer.
The decision may be taken by the company as a way of avoiding making redundancies during a difficult period; employees can be transferred to another company or department that will pay their salary.
On a more positive note, a company might choose to second employees to revitalise a department; seconded individuals are likely to return with new ideas, skills and renewed enthusiasm.
Sometimes – particularly in large companies that operate across different sites geographically – secondments are used to spread company culture and create a more cohesive organisation.
Many secondments are initiated by the employee. Here are a few reasons why you might choose to embark on a secondment:
The key to requesting a secondment is making it clear to the employer how the upheaval will benefit the company in the long run.
Hopefully, your happiness and career goals are also important to the company, so this should form a large part of the ‘ask’ as well.
Think about the following when crafting your proposal:
If you are the one who wants the secondment and your company is unaware, it is advisable to discuss it with them first before approaching the department or company you wish to be seconded to.
An informal chat is a good first step to take. You will then most likely need to put a formal request in writing.
Approaching your company first means that, if they need to be swayed, you can suggest that they work with you on finding an appropriate secondment that will benefit both parties.
By doing this, they may also agree to approach the host company for you at a higher level.
Here are our tips for making the most of the opportunity you have been given, and ensuring your secondment experience is a positive one:
Most employee rights – things like unlawful discrimination and unfair dismissal – only stand if there has been ‘continuity of employment’ with the employer.
It’s important to make sure your secondment agreement states that your statutory period of continuous employment remains unbroken, despite you working at a different company.
Clarify the little things. If you are sick and can’t come into work, which employer do you call? Who do you ask for annual leave?
It’s important you don’t get into trouble for something everyone is unsure about.
Make sure you are fully aware of how the secondment will end. Ensure that you will have a job to go back to once the secondment is over, and that it is the same one you left.
A secondment can be a fantastic way of exploring new career possibilities, gaining experience while being employed, learning new skills, boosting confidence and becoming a more valued team member.
The key to a successful secondment is ensuring that an agreement is in place that makes it very clear who is responsible for who.
Be patient and don’t expect to know everything straight away. A secondment is essentially no different from starting a new job – despite the ‘relocation’ often being as close as the next room.
Having said that, secondees are not usually given the same grace period of ‘settling in’ that a completely new member of staff would have. Therefore, preparation is vital – the more knowledge you have of the company and the job you will be doing, the easier it will be to get on top of the new role.
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