Secondments are part of the modern workplace. They can be a useful way to allow employees to gain new skills and experiences while meeting short-term staffing needs. Where the turnover rate is low, secondment arrangements can be used to inject new ideas, skills, and perspectives into the workplace.
But what exactly is a secondment and how does it impact workers and their employers? In this article, we will dig into these questions and many more.
What is a secondment?
A secondment is a temporary work placement of an employee in another area of the business to that in which they normally work.
Secondments can be either be internal or external (although most are internal).
- A secondment is considered internal when the new position is within another area of the same organisation.
- A secondment is considered external when the employee transfers to another organisation for the temporary change in roles.
Why might an employee be sent out on a secondment?
Possible reasons for an employee to be seconded might include:
- For their career development.
- As a chance to gain new skills or experience.
- To generate income for the employer.
- To provide staff for short-term projects.
- To provide cover for short-term absences.
- To avoid redundancies.
- To allow the company to take part in charitable schemes.
What does the law say about secondments?
As an employee on secondment is still protected by an employment contract for their initial role, they are entitled to all the rights and privileges this provides.
They will still receive:
- Statutory holiday leave/pay.
- Accruement of holiday entitlement.
- Sick leave and pay.
- Adoption leave and pay.
- Protection from discrimination.
- Pension entitlement.
- Access to all benefits of their normal role.
Best practices for employers when looking at sending staff on secondments
Here are a few best practices that employers should follow if they are thinking about sending workers on secondment:
Make sure the secondment fits the employee as well as the employer
Workplaces are increasingly viewing external secondments as a useful tool in an armoury of strategies designed to enhance staff development. However, for it to be successful the employer needs to pay careful attention to matching people to opportunities. Employees should only be required to undertake secondments where it is appropriate for the organisation or is capable of enhancing the employee’s job.
Set clear aims for the secondment
Before embarking on a programme of secondments, employers should be clear what their aims and objectives are and how these are to be achieved. Strong commitment to the principles of secondments from senior managers is a critical factor to success.
Set out clear details and arrangements for the secondment
To avoid confusion, it is necessary to make sure the following factors are clear and in writing before the period of secondment begins:
- How long the secondment will last.
- What will happen if any of the parties wish to end the secondment early.
- What specific contractual obligations the employee will have to fulfil.
- Who will be the ‘employer’ during the period of secondment. This may be a different part of the business to usual or even a different ‘brand’ or ‘offshoot’ of the company.
- What happens to pay and other benefits during the secondment.
- Who will be responsible for the disciplinary and performance issues of the employer.
- The procedures and supervisory arrangements to be followed during the secondment. For example, what the day-to-day line management responsibility for a seconded member of staff are.
- What travelling and subsistence expenses the employee will be eligible for. This is especially important if the employee’s secondment is geographically further away than their current role.
The releasing employer will also have to consider how it will cover the seconded employee’s post during the secondment, as well as how it will manage the employee’s re-introduction to work when they return.
What happens to a seconded employee’s contract?
A secondment does not terminate an employee’s contract of employment and the contract continues to subsist during the period of secondment. A key principle of secondment arrangement is that the employee is expected to return to his or her substantive post when the secondment ends.
Do I have to get an employee’s agreement to send them on secondment?
The effect of a secondment agreement is to vary certain terms of the employee’s employment contract for the duration of the secondment. As such, the employee’s agreement to the secondment must be obtained before a secondment can commence.
How are leave and sickness absence managed for employees on secondment?
In most cases, employees on secondment will still be working for the same employer so will be expected to receive the same leave and sickness benefits.
If the secondment sees the employer move to a different brand of the business, the seconded employee would normally be entitled to no less favourable terms than those enjoyed with the releasing employer.
How are disciplinary procedures managed for seconded employees?
Again, as most employees on secondment will still be working for the same employer, disciplinary measures will work the same.
If an employee has been seconded to a different branch, brand, or arm of a company, keeping the same disciplinary procedures may not be viable. In these cases, the releasing team/manager/brand retains control over the contract of employment, and the host ‘employer’ is restricted to simply terminating the secondment arrangement. The employee will then return to their normal team where their original manager/s will decide if the employee’s actions require disciplinary proceedings.
What about secondments and pensions?
Because the employee remains employed during the secondment, membership of any pension scheme they are entitled to is unaffected.
Normally, the employer will continue to pay the employee through its payroll function and will make pension deductions and adjustments accordingly.
Secondments are a valuable tool in the modern workplace to increase employee skills and provide workplaces with the staff and cover they need to run successfully.
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