Secondments

Definition

Secondments may be:

  • Internal: the temporary movement of a University employee to another area of the University.
  • Outward: the temporary movement of a University employee to a college or to an external company.
  • Inward: the temporary movement of an employee of an external company to a role within the University.

During the secondment the legal employer continues to carry legal obligations towards the secondee, so where a University employee is seconded, the University continues to have legal obligations towards the employee.

At the end of a secondment the employee will usually return to work for their legal employer.

Purpose

The purpose of a secondment may be to deploy a member of staff with particular skills and abilities to undertake a particular project, or to cover a period of maternity leave or sickness absence. The secondment may also be considered to be an opportunity for an individual to acquire skills or experience which will benefit their employing department upon their return, as well as providing career development for the individual member of staff.

The purpose of a secondment is not to offer individuals and departments a ‘risk-free’ way of trying out a new role or employee. Where the intention of either individual or host at the outset of the secondment is that the role is likely to be offered or taken up on a permanent basis, a secondment is not appropriate since the employing department is left unable to fill the vacated role for an extended period of time.  In such cases a proper open recruitment and probation process should be followed.

Benefits

For staff: secondments provide career development opportunities and the chance to acquire new skills and experience, and broaden horizons. The secondment may provide the opportunity to broaden and deepen experience rather than necessarily involving working at a higher grade or level.

For departments: the facility to offer secondments to staff can improve career development opportunities, motivation and morale, as well as improving networking and team-working across the collegiate university. Secondments are a valuable way of resourcing cover for staff absence or short-term projects. Secondees coming into the University can also offer valuable external perspectives.

Eligibility

An employee may apply for a secondment if they:

  • have been employed in their current post for a period of at least 12 months at the time of applying for the secondment;
  • have an underlying contract that will last for at least 6 months after the secondment period would end (in order that the employing department is able to gain some benefit from the skills/experience gained during the secondment upon their return to their substantive post);
  • have the approval of their employing department before applying for the secondment; and
  • can make a case as to how the skills and experience gained will benefit their employing department when they return to their substantive role at the end of the secondment.
For individuals who require a work visa a secondment may breach the individual’s visa arrangements. Departments are strongly encouraged to seek advice from the staff immigration team before any secondment is considered.

Setting up a secondment

NB This guidance refers to secondments, of a full or part-time nature which are intended to last for a period of 4 months or more.  For shorter-term secondments it may be appropriate to set the secondment up in a more informal manner.

Offering secondments

Any short-term post can be advertised as a potential secondment opportunity.

A department wishing to offer a secondment position should draft up a job description and consider selection criteria for the post as normal and acquire the necessary authorisations and approvals.

Advertising

A short-term post that is identified as a potential secondment opportunity may also represent a redeployment opportunity for a member of staff at risk of redundancy.  Therefore, wherever possible the post should be advertised in the following way:

  • As a normal job advert in the relevant area of the vacancies section (depending on job type) but with the addition of the following wording in the job title: “The post may also be offered as a secondment opportunity”.
  • Jobs identified in this way will be also be posted to the site into a separate secondment opportunities area of the jobs website.

In this way those seeking secondments can easily identify suitable opportunities and those needing suitable redeployment can access all the available posts easily.

In some circumstances it may be appropriate to circulate details via internal mailing lists.

Identifying suitable candidates

Managers may bring a secondment opportunity to the attention of members of their teams as a professional development activity, or individuals may apply for an advertised secondment on their own initiative.  Whilst a full formal recruitment process may not always be required (for example, in the case of an individual with specific or uncommon skills being required to undertake a defined piece of project work in another department in order for the project to be successfully completed), all eligible staff should be given proper consideration and the selection process should be transparent.

Approvals

Whilst departments should not unreasonably withhold consent for an individual to take up a secondment opportunity there may be occasions when it is not operationally viable to release the individual.    

The following considerations should be addressed before a secondment is agreed:

  • The business case for the secondment (for example to allow an individual to acquire particular skills or experience which are of benefit to the department or wider university).
  • The duration of the secondment.
  • The operational impact on the department. Care should be taken to ensure that a planned absence such as a secondment which allows a development opportunity for one member of staff is not facilitated by over-burdening their colleagues.
  • How the individual’s responsibilities will be covered during their absence including any formal line-management responsibility and any formal responsibilities the individual holds such as for safety, etc.
  • Whether the secondment would provide a further secondment opportunity, or the opportunity for another member of the team to ‘act-up’.
  • Any IP considerations or issues that may give rise to conflict of interest.
  • The arrangements for overtime, expenses, training during the secondment, and how these costs will be covered?
  • Who will act as line manager to the secondee, including responsibility for PDR/appraisal?
  • What are the arrangements for ending the secondment early (for example due to capability or performance)?
  • How will disciplinary matters be dealt with? (NB the department holding the underlying contract of employment should retain formal responsibility for disciplinary matters).
  • Does the University’s insurance cover the secondment?
  • Are there health and safety considerations for the secondment?
  • What happens at the end of the secondment? i.e. can the individual return to their substantive role?

Duration

A secondment is in essence a temporary arrangement  and therefore typically the duration would not exceed 12 months (with an absolute maximum of two years). A secondment may be for as little as a few weeks and may be offered on a part-time basis, whilst the substantive post continues on a reduced basis.

Terms and conditions

Part-time secondments

Even if an individual is only to be seconded for a proportion of their working hours to another unit or employer, it is important that an agreement is put in place between all parties to ensure that matters outlined here are agreed and clearly understood.  In particular, there must be clarity about how conflicting priorities and demands between the two roles will be handled and how the secondment will be brought to an end if the arrangements prove not to be viable.

Pensions considerations

1) Secondments between support and academic-related grades

Where a grade 5 member of staff who is in the OSPS pension scheme is seconded to a grade 6 role which is eligible for USS membership the postholder will, exceptionally, be allowed to remain in OSPS for the duration of the secondment to avoid a false break in service.  In the event that they subsequently secure a substantive post at the higher grade this post would be linked to the USS pension scheme as normal.

2) Secondments to a higher grade within the same staff group

Where a member of staff is seconded to a post at a higher grade but within the same staff group (i.e. support or academic-related) the new salary is pensionable (NB as distinct from an acting-up allowance paid within the same department which is non-pensionable as it is paid as an allowance, rather than as salary).

Annual leave

The employing department and host should agree arrangements for annual leave before a secondment commences, and communicate these in writing to the secondee. This should include whether annual leave entitlement must be taken within the period of engagement, i.e. annual leave accrued before the secondment to be taken before the secondment commences and annual leave accrued during the secondment to be taken during the agreed secondment period. Arrangements for notifying and recording annual leave should also be agreed between all parties.

Sickness

Arrangements for notifying, recording and managing sickness should be agreed by all parties. The employing department will retain the responsibility to maintain formal sickness records and secondees may need to notify all periods of sickness to both employing and host department. 

The costs associated with the sickness absence fall to the department with liability for the salary costs at the time. If extended sickness is making the secondment unsustainable, advice should be sought from your HR Business Partner.

Contact during the secondment

Before the secondment commences all parties should agree the arrangements for the employing department to retain contact with the secondee during the secondment. The purpose of retaining contact is to maintain employee records, ensure that processes such as PDR are continued and ensure the employee is kept up-to-date with any developments that may affect their substantive appointment or help with their re-integration.

Induction and re-integration

Careful thought should be given to arrangements for the secondee both when joining the new department and also rejoining their old department.

Reward and Recognition schemes

1) Awards for Excellence: the purpose of the Awards for Excellence annual gathered field exercise is to review performance over a specific 12 month period. Individuals on secondment should be considered by whichever department they worked for during the period. If the substantive employing department decide to award a recurrent increment to an individual who is on secondment at the time of the award, then the award will take effect only when s/he returns to his/her substantive role since the award relates to performance in substantive post. A non-recurrent lump sum should be paid at the same time as other awards made by the department.

If the individual is eligible for consideration at the date of the gathered field exercise in the department hosting the secondment (i.e. if they have 6 months service within the secondment at that date) then they may be included in the exercise. Recurrent awards should not be made since they cannot be transferred back to the substantive appointment.

2) Recognition scheme: secondees are eligible for recognition payments at any point.

Contractual and payment arrangements

See QRG: CH14 Manage Changes Secondments (254kb)

It is essential that all parties are clear about their responsibilities, expectations, and accountabilities. Departments choosing to offer a post as a secondment instead of a fixed-term appointment, should be aware that they are accepting responsibility for the full employment costs of the post (which will include costs associated with sickness absence, annual leave, etc) in the same way as they would had they appointed the individual as an employee on a fixed-term contract.

Two agreements are usually required: the employment contract between the legal employer and the individual (in the case of a standard secondment between departments, this will be the pre-existing employment contract) and a secondment agreement between the employer, the host and the secondee.

Secondments between University departments

Typically the secondee’s substantive appointment will be reduced to zero hours for the duration of the secondment, and the individual will be appointed to a secondment post within the new department who will pay the salary directly. 

A template internal secondment agreement is available from your HR Business Partner. This acts as a contract amendment, outlining the period of the secondment, varying place of work, any payment arrangements, setting out the line management arrangements, etc.

The secondment agreement also sets out the agreement between the two departments with regard to payment arrangements, duration, arrangements for annual leave, sickness, line management, and terminating the secondment early (for example in the event of poor performance). The individual may also be required to sign-up to local policies and procedures (e.g. Health and Safety) of the new department. 

Continuity of service is retained by the employee throughout the secondment.

Secondments to an external company or college

Where an individual is to be seconded to an external company or college the secondment may be set up in one of the following ways:

1) A standard secondment

The individual's salary continues to be paid as normal by the employing department who invoice the salary costs to the company/college (VAT may have to be added to the salary costs, please contact the VAT team for advice). The individual retains all their University terms and conditions including salary progression, save as amended by the secondment agreement,  and their membership of the pension scheme.

Contract/secondment agreement: the individual remains a full employee of the University and the substantive CMS contract remains in place. An additional secondment agreement between University, college and secondee is drawn up covering the secondment period.  Please contact your HR Business Partner who can provide a template, however, the detail of the agreement will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis depending on the nature of the secondment.

Payment: the substantive appointment is reduced to zero in Core.  A new, secondment, appointment is set-up and the individual is paid against this new appointment for the duration of the appointment. Salary is paid against an appropriate University grade and scale point. The costs of the appointment are recharged to the company/college. The addition of VAT may be applicable depending on a number of factors including the nature of the work to be undertaken.  VAT advice should be sought on a case-by-case basis from the University’s Finance Division before the contractual arrangements are finalised.

Holiday/sickness/other terms: terms relating to holiday and sickness will be amended such that the employee must liaise with the company/college as well as the University in respect of any periods of holiday or sickness which fall during the secondment period.

Continuity of service: the individual would retain continuity of service with the University.

At the end of the secondment: the individual may be able to return to their substantive post with the University, in which case their salary would revert to its previous level (plus any incremental progression that has occurred during the secondment).

Pension: as the individual remains employed by the University throughout the secondment their pension is unaffected.

Considerations:

  • the responsibilities are very clear;
  • the individual retains their role in the University and their continuity of employment;
  • the individual’s pension and tax situation are unaffected;
  • in the event that the secondment has to be ended early this will not necessarily affect the underlying employment although the University cannot guarantee ongoing employment.
  • The company/college may incur a liability for VAT in addition to the cost of the employment.

or

2) The employee takes unpaid leave from their University post, and is employed directly by the company/college for the duration of the temporary appointment

In exceptional circumstances, the individual may be given unpaid leave from their University post for the duration of the secondment and be engaged and paid directly by the external company/college who will issue their own fixed-term employment contract. Continuity of service with the University is retained by the employee throughout the secondment, and the University may therefore incur other employer liabilities.

Contract: the individual remains an employee of the University and the substantive CMS contract remains in place.  The department should write to the employee formally agreeing the period of unpaid leave, and agreeing that, in principle, the individual may return to their substantive post and current salary (plus any incremental progression) at the end of the secondment, but that this cannot be guaranteed. The letter may also wish to outline other arrangements such as how the employee's substantive post will be covered in their absence, any arrangements for retaining contact during the secondment, etc.  The company/college draw up their own standard fixed-term contract for the duration of the ‘secondment’.

Payment: the University post is reduced to zero in Core (but is not ended so no P45 is raised). The individual is paid direct by the company/college and completes a P46 stating ‘this is my main job’ and contacts HMRC to ensure that their personal allowances are allocated to the company/college job (and reverses this process on return to the University).

At the end of the secondment: the individual may be able to return to their substantive post with the University and their salary would revert to its previous level (plus any incremental progression that has occurred during the secondment).

Pension: before agreeing to this form of secondment the individual must contact the Pensions Office directly to discuss the pension implications. If a member, the individuals’ existing pensions membership it likely to be suspended whilst on secondment to a company, and in the case of secondments to a college, the college appointment would carry its own pensions membership. Not all colleges participate in the same schemes as the University, and where they do, the individual may end up with two pensions memberships in different areas (final salary and CARE) of the scheme.

National Insurance: individuals with more than one job can, in some circumstances, seek to defer their national insurance contributions.  For further information see the Payroll website.

Responsibilities: the company/college would become the primary employer with primary responsibility for the individual.

Holiday/sickness/other terms: the individual would not be able to transfer annual leave entitlements between employers. The company/college will not automatically recognise continuity of service with regard to sick leave entitlement, long service leave, etc.

Considerations:

  • there is no additional cost to the company/college
  • the responsibilities are very clear
  • the individual retains their role in the University and their continuity of employment upon return, in the event that the secondment has to be ended early the substantive post remains
  • the pension and tax arrangements are more complicated and potentially disadvantageous for the individual.

Marie Curie Fellows

Where the individual being seconded is a Marie Curie fellow, please use the templates provided on the right hand side of this page.

If the Marie Curie fellow is a visa holder, please seek advice from the Staff immigration team as early as possible.  It is essential that advice is sought before any agreements are discussed, as some visa statuses preclude secondment arrangements.