What is a Secondment Agreements and What Does it Mean for Me?

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When an employee is asked by their employer to transfer temporarily to another position in the company, the employee may be confused and anxious about what this means for their role in the company. This is a process known as secondment, and it will generally give the employee a new perspective and offer them an opportunity to learn new skills, despite their potential nerves regarding the uncertainty of what this means regarding the role and how they will fit in when they return to their current position.

What is a secondment?

Secondment is defined as the temporary transfer of an employee to another position of employment. These employees are likely transferred temporarily to fill a role in another area of the company, or transferred to improve and expand their current skill base. The role of a secondment generally allows for a new perspective and opportunity to develop in an employee’s professional life, whilst remaining in the same business they are currently employed in. Secondments allow an employee to develop and learn in the new area of the business, which will ultimately boost their employability and enhance their working career.

What is an internal secondment compared to an external secondment?

Internal secondments are when an employee is transferred to another department in the same company. External secondments occur when an employee is transferred between a company, with the opportunity to learn about how that business operates. Secondments are generally internal, however, external secondments still occur for employees, generally within offices with partnerships overseas or interstate. 

How long does a secondment last?

If an employee is being transferred to another role in the company, an employer should agree on a fixed period of time for the secondment from the initial proposition. Secondments generally take a few weeks to organise. Secondments should amount to a minimum of six months, and not exceed a period of two years.

What is the difference between a secondment and a promotion?

Secondments, unlike promotions, are a temporary move between a current job to a new job. Promotions generally involve a transfer from an employee’s current status to a higher line manager position. Both secondments and promotions can entail monetary raises or bonuses, however, secondments are less likely to offer said raise.

What does a secondment mean for you as an employee?

Despite the opportunity to grow and develop your professional skill set, you, as an employee may be unsure as to whether to take a secondment offer. Secondments can sometimes require you to travel or move, especially if the secondment is external. Additionally, you may be uncertain of what the secondment role requires, and for this, your employer should have a clear outline of what is required of you and how you will slot into the new department. Lastly, you may be concerned as to how you will fit back into your initial position once your secondment ends, and thus, you can keep in regular contact with your supervisor from your initial job to ensure that you are clear on current events happening in that department. Despite the cons, secondments are a great opportunity to develop your professional career and acquire new knowledge. Further, a secondment provides you with an opportunity to work in a new environment without a permanent commitment. You will also gain additional networking experience, by working with new colleagues. 

What does a secondment mean for you as an employer?

A secondment allows you, as an employer, to grow and develop your employees skill set, in conjunction with filling a role that is essential to your business. Secondments are also great to promote expertise and retain employees that are feeling burnt out. Secondments also allow for improved team-working, which ultimately boosts motivation and morale for the workplace. You must also consider how to fill the seconded employee’s role whilst they are filling their new position. Additionally, secondments are a great way for you to alleviate redundancies within your departments or company, as you will be able to train a person in that position that already has prior knowledge and experience within the company. 

Questions that you should ask to consider whether a secondment is beneficial to your company include:

  • Is there a business need?
  • Is it beneficial to both you and the other department?
  • What skill set will the employee learn?
  • Of what benefit is it to transfer the employee?
  • What will happen to the team and employee once the secondment is finished?

Can I be forced to go take a role of secondment?

Employers cannot compel an employee to take a role on a secondment, or change their contract of employment to include a transfer to another position. If there is a clause in the employee’s contract that allows for flexibility or mobility, the employer must act reasonably and take care in enforcing the terms of the clause, so as to not go against their consent. If this occurs, the employee has the ability to claim breach of contract. 

Will I have a job to return to if I go on secondment?

An employee is expected to have their initial job to return to upon finishing their secondment, with their initial contract co-existing with their secondment contract, ready to resume when their secondment ends. Additionally, the secondment does not allow an employer to fill the employee’s role prior to them going on secondment, and the employer is not allowed to terminate the initial contract.

What is it like on a secondment?

Once placed in the different position, you will be inducted before beginning your training for the new position. Your employer is likely to question you about your learning objectives, including what experience and skills you wish to gain from the experience. Once on the secondment, you will retain many useful skills that will benefit you in both your current and future positions. You may be demoted to a junior role, but you will benefit immensely from the newly acquired knowledge. You may have a meeting with your employer whilst on secondment, with them enquiring as to what skills and experience you are gaining. After the fixed term of the secondment agreement, you will return to your original position with extensive knowledge of how the company operates in a different department. Your employer is also likely to hold a debriefing meeting upon completion of the secondment, to hear from you as to what you have learnt and gained from your experience on secondment. They may also question you as to whether there were any duties you completed on secondment, that you can add into your original job description. 

Secondments can be incredibly beneficial to both employers and employees alike, with an opportunity for career development and an enhancement of knowledge. Offering the learning opportunity of a secondment will increase productivity and boost morale for the company. Despite this, with all agreements, legal issues arise for both employer and employee. Legal issues that may arise, include, but are not limited to the following questions:

  • What occurs if at the end of the secondment, the employee wishes to remain in their seconded position?
  • Who monitors the employee’s performance?
  • Who are the legal relationships between?
  • How does the arrangement end early if necessary?
  • What occurs if the employee decides to resign? How is the employee’s contract terminated?
  • Who is responsible for the employee’s safety?
  • What laws apply to either party?

 Legal advice

If you are considering offering employees a secondment or have been offered a secondment by your employer, you should seek legal advice. Legal Kitz business specialists can assist with ensuring that your Secondment Agreement is drafted so that you may avoid disputes from vague terminology or missing essential clauses for the operation of the Secondment Agreement.Click here to book a FREE consultation with one of our highly experienced solicitors today or contact us at info@legalkitz.com.au or by calling 1300 988 954.