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HR Guide: What is Secondment and How Does it Work?

Mohamad Danial bin Ab. Khalil
by Mohamad Danial bin Ab. Khalil
Aug 04, 2020 at 4:22 AM

What is secondment?

Secondment is the assignment of a member of one organisation to another organisation for a temporary period. There are two types of secondment:

  • Internal secondment: the employee moves to a different part of the same organisation.
  • External secondment: the employee temporarily works at a different organisation.

An employee may be seconded for various reasons, such as:

  • training
  • exchange/sharing of knowledge/experience between organisations
  • to meet the workforce needs of another understaffed organisation or department


Benefits of secondment

  • If the organisation is trying to avoid making redundancies during a tough period, they can send an employee for secondment so another organisation will pay their salary. 
  • Seconded employees are likely to return with new ideas and renewed enthusiasm.
  • It is a good method for the employee to develop their career by learning new skills and gain experience. 
  • Secondment provides a great networking opportunity for the employee as they will meet new people and make contacts for the future.
  • The employee will experience another company and how they do things can improve the employee's flexibility and adaptability. 


Secondment is different from transfer

A transfer usually refers to a permanent transfer, and where the transfer is made from one organisation to another, the law deems it to be a termination of employment with the first organisation and re-employment with the second organisation.

Whereas, a secondment is a temporary arrangement that does not affect the employment relationship between the employee and the employer.

two women looking at screen
Secondment presents the opportunity for the employee to learn new things at the new organisation or department.

What if the employee rejects the secondment?

Employers have the prerogative to assign to their employees any job or to transfer to any department or organisation that they deem essential for the business, so long as the instruction is made in good faith and does not involve any fundamental and detrimental change to the employee's terms and conditions of employment.

If the employee refuses to be seconded, it can be seen as an act of insubordination that warrants disciplinary actions. It is recommended to receive the employee's consent to the secondment before executing it. 


The proper way to carry out a secondment

First of all, the organisation should make sure that the secondment does not result in a break in the continuity of the employee's service length, or any other fundamental and detrimental change in the employee's employment terms (such as a reduction in salary, as this could constitute constructive dismissal).

If the secondment affects the employee's work location (for example, move to another state, or another location which would increase the employee's travel time and cost), the Employe should make sure that the secondment terms account for this matter so the employee won't experience financial problems. 

Organisations that predicts that they need to second their employee should also study their existing policies and employment contracts to make sure that there is a clause which expressly allows the employer to second or transfer its employees to different organisations, to meet the business needs of the employer.


The end of the secondment

When the secondment comes to an end, the employee will return to the original employer and continue their employment just like before the secondment. The secondment does not result in a change in the employee's employment relationship with the original employer. Therefore, the end of secondment does not translate to the termination of the employee's employment. 

In particular incidents, termination of the secondment may also be followed by a termination of employment with the employer. For instance, where the employee commits misconduct during the secondment period, the secondment will be ended, and the employee will also be fired for the misconduct, and these two can happen at the same time. But, the dismissal still needs to come from the original employer. 


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Source: Donovan & Ho & WikiJob