What is meant by the Secondment of an Employee?

Secondment of an employee

What is meant by ‘secondment’?

The term ‘secondment’ describes where an employee or a group of employees is assigned on a temporary basis to work for another, ‘host’ organisation, or a different part of their employer’s organisation. On expiry of the secondment term, the employee (the ‘secondee’) will ‘return’ to their original employer.

Why might a secondment take place?

There are many reasons why it may be considered desirable for a secondment to occur, including:

  • The career development of a particular individual
  • The chance for an individual to gain some new skills or gain some experience
  • Providing staff with the chance to work on short term projects
  • Providing potential cover for short term absences
  • Avoiding redundancies
  • Enabling the employee to remain with the original employer, thus preserving specific benefits such as pension schemes
  • If the secondment is external, various legal issues will arise which will need to be covered in a detailed secondment agreement.

Can a secondment be internal as well as external?

An employee who works in a large organisation may be seconded to another section of that organisation. An internal secondment can be done much more informally and a fully detailed secondment agreement is unlikely to be required. The only specific issues which will need to be defined in an internal secondment will be the duties of the employee on secondment, their manager, their place of work, and wages and any additional costs/expenses.

Should there be an agreement in place?

Ideally, on an external secondment, the secondee’s existing employment contract should be reviewed, and a written agreement covering the secondment terms drawn up. This will set out the agreed changes to the secondee’s employment and may be signed by all three parties.

On an external secondment, who will be the employer?

In an external secondment, the individual will usually remain the employee of the primary employer during the term of the secondment. However, in some cases the secondee may technically become an employee of the host employer, even if that is not what is intended.

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For more information on:

  • Why is this important?
  • As a host employer, how do I ensure a secondee does not become fully integrated into my organisation?
  • What will happen to an employee’s continuity of employment if they are seconded elsewhere?
  • Who will pay the secondee?