UCL Human Resources


External Secondment Guidance

Guidance regarding the arrangement and management of external secondments.



1. Secondments should be designed to enable secondees to enhance or develop skills and their understanding of particular areas of work that are relevant to their current or future role. Skills and expertise gained can then be transferred back to their substantive role at UCL. Secondments may also develop valuable relationships between UCL and other organisations. This document gives practical guidance on the successful implementation of external secondment agreements.


2. This procedure covers UK and overseas external outward and external inward secondments.  

3. The internal secondments guidance covers UCL employees seconded to another role within UCL.


4. External secondment is the temporary transfer of an employee to undertake work, whether on a full time or part time basis, to another organisation.


External outwards secondments

5. External outwards secondments occur when UCL works collaboratively with an external organisation that wishes to deploy a UCL member of staff with required expertise to their organisation for a specific period of time.

6. Guidance on issues relating specifically to overseas secondments can be found below (25-35).

External inward secondments

7. External inward secondments occur when UCL wishes to utilise the specific skills and abilities of a person employed by an external organisation to fulfil a particular role or project on a temporary basis. If the post becomes open ended rather than fixed term it must be advertised externally. The secondee can apply for the position but must be considered against other candidates as part of a normal recruitment exercise.

Staff Exchange

8. There may be the need for an exchange to take place where an employee is seconded out from UCL to another organisation and is temporarily replaced by an employee of an external organisation being seconded in. In these cases the two secondments should be dealt with separately and covered by separate secondment agreements. A link may need to be made regarding the duration of the secondment, for example if one of the secondments ends earlier than expected the other secondment will normally end at the same time.

Secondment agreement

9. When arranging secondments it is important, both for UCL and the employees concerned, that the arrangements and responsibilities of the different parties are made clear. Before a secondment takes place, there should be mutual understanding and a written agreement among the three parties as to the nature and terms of the secondment. They will be paid in line with the grade of their new position. The contract will also stipulate the right to return to either their old position or an equivalent position at the end of the fixed term. These agreements must be signed before any secondment takes place. Appendix 1 UCL Incoming Template Secondment Agreement should be completed and sent to HR-services@ucl.ac.uk to save to EDRM, if the secondee will hold an honorary staff record.

10. If it is an outward secondment UCL will provide the secondment agreement to be signed. If the secondment is inward the external organisation will normally provide the agreement, however UCL does have a template that may be used - see Appendix 2.  If the department or HR Business Partner has concerns that any of the clauses in the external organisation’s agreement are less favourable than those in UCL’s template, they should seek advice from UCL Legal Services.   The department should issue the employee with a secondment letter, see Appendix 3. The Secondment Agreement and letter should be sent to hr-services@ucl.ac.uk to save on the employee’s HR File.

11. If a department wishes to set up an external UK secondment they should ensure that it has been approved by the Head of Department and make their HR Business Partner aware of it as soon as possible. 

12. If a department wishes to set up an external overseas secondment the Head of Department (or delegate) should seek specialist legal and tax advice from Richard Homer (Head of Global Mobility and Expatriate Tax at UCL) before agreeing any overseas secondment. If, following advice and consultation with senior staff, it is agreed the employee may work overseas, they should contact their HR Business Partner as soon as possible. The HR Business Partner will liaise with UCL Legal Services to draft the agreement and ensure a copy is saved to EDRM, the HR file. 

Terms and Conditions

13. Whilst on external secondment, secondees will maintain the same terms and conditions relating to their employment at UCL. Continuous service will be maintained, though day to day management will be delegated to the seconding organisation.

14. The relevant policies and procedures of the secondee's own organisation such as grievance and disciplinary procedures will continue to apply to the secondee. However, whilst on the premises of the external organisation the secondee must have regard for the relevant policies and procedures of that organisation which will apply during the period of the secondment e.g. health and safety. In these circumstances it is the responsibility of the external organisation to make the secondee aware of the relevant policies and procedures.

15. UCL staff engaged on external outward secondments must follow the host organisation's safeguarding policies. In the absence of such a policy they should refer to the UCL Safeguarding Policy.

16. If any party, including the secondee, wishes to terminate the secondment agreement prior to the agreed end date this should be discussed as soon as possible with all the parties concerned. For example it might be agreed to end the secondment early if the secondee has been on long term sickness or grievance or disciplinary proceedings have been instigated in relation to the secondment. Following discussion, if it is agreed that the period of secondment should be terminated earlier than the original agreed end date, a revised end date should be agreed.

Annual Leave

17. A secondee going from UCL to another organisation will be entitled to the same amount of leave, including bank holidays and closure days that they are entitled to at UCL. This means that secondees should have 41 days leave in total if full time. Bank holiday and closure days may differ in different organisations and in different countries. If this is the case the amount of annual leave can be adjusted to ensure the total amount remains at 41 days.

18. For example, a secondee has 10 bank holidays/ closure days at the organisation to which they are seconded but 14 at UCL. In this situation the amount of annual leave to which they are entitled could be increased to 31 days. In addition they would receive 10 public holidays/ closure days meaning the overall entitlement remains at 41 days. See the wording in the template agreement for an example of how this can be set out. An external inward secondee would keep their existing leave entitlement and normally adjust when they take their annual leave in a similar way, to take account of UCL closure days. 

Pay arrangements

19. In outward secondments UCL will continue to pay the employee for the duration of their secondment. Any increments and pay awards due will be made as normal. UCL will normally claim the costs of this pay from the host organisation. The arrangements for recharge should build in the salary on costs and any increments/pay awards that will fall during the period of secondment.

20. Departments should take into account that the secondment fee will normally be subject to VAT, which will increase the costs of inward secondments. The timing and method of reclaiming costs should be determined with the external organisation prior to the secondment being agreed but it is preferable that this is done on a quarterly basis.


21. In normal situations a UCL employee undertaking a secondment at another organisation will be able to continue paying into their UCL pension. Members of USS are encouraged to review the USS factsheet on working overseas.  Pension deductions will continue as normal from the salary that continues to be paid by UCL.

Insurance and indemnity

22. UCL insurance will not normally cover an employee who has been seconded to another organisation, e.g. a UCL employee will not be covered by UCL insurance if they have an accident in their seconded workplace. In these cases the secondee should be covered by the insurance policy of the host organisation. An external inward secondee based at UCL will be covered by UCL's Public Liability Policy where UCL is found to be legally liable for any claim.

23. It is normal practice for UCL to include indemnity clauses in external outward secondment agreements. Indemnity clauses protect UCL in cases where the secondment agreement is not adhered to by the host organisation. Please see the suggested wording in the template agreement available from HR Business Partnering.

Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

24. It is normal practice that the host organisation of any secondment will own the intellectual property of any work associated with the secondment, unless it is otherwise specified in the secondment agreement. Any intellectual property prior to the secondment will remain with the employer.

Overseas secondments

Medical insurance

25. Any employee undertaking an outward secondment overseas will need to be covered by UCL's travel insurance policy which would cover medical expenses for the secondee. June Campbell in the Finance division should be advised when setting up the overseas secondment. If overseas secondments exceed one year UCL's insurers charge additional premiums related to medical expenses which would need to be met. This additional charge will normally need to be met by the department organising the secondment.

26. If eligible, and in addition to travel insurance, staff should apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) if visiting an European Union (EU) Country.  It gives the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in the EU. Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things that are free of charge from the NHS.

Right to work

27. Any overseas secondment is subject to the employee being and remaining eligible to work in the country in which they will be based. The secondment agreement will be subject to the employee obtaining the right to work before the secondment commences. Similarly a secondee coming to UCL from overseas will need to ensure that they have the right to work in the UK and their documentation must be checked prior to the start date of the secondment.


28. In outward overseas secondments the secondee will often be paid by UCL from within the UK. In these situations the employee will continue to be paid in UK currency. Alternatively an overseas secondee may be paid by a payroll function based overseas. In these cases the secondee may be paid in the overseas currency using a conversion rate from their current salary. Please see the two payment options in the overseas secondment template for examples of how this information can be specified.

London Allowance

29. London Allowance (LA) is not paid for work outside the Greater London boroughs in the UK. For foreign secondments consideration may be given to paying a Personal Allowance (PA) up to a maximum of the equivalent value of the LA. The need for and the level of allowance will be determined with reference to the cost of living in the applicable secondment location. This will normally include consideration of factors such as the cost of schooling, accommodation, physical security, transport etc.

30. The UCL Head of Reward and Pension (m.rice@ucl.ac.uk) should be consulted regarding the payment of a PA before the form on MyHR Department Transactions is completed. If a PA is agreed, the substitution of LA by PA should be noted on the form.


31. Tax payable on a secondee's salary will vary depending on the length of the secondment and the new country in which the secondee will be residing and working in. In outward overseas secondments the employee will continue to be paid by UCL and tax will continue to be deducted at the UK rate unless payroll are informed otherwise.

32. To become a UK non-resident for income tax in the UK the employee must meet the requirements set out in HMRC Statutory Residence Test, which is available at Appendix 1. In the first instance advice about personal tax status during extended overseas secondments should be sought from the HMRC. If the secondee believes that they should not be paying UK tax they need to apply to the HMRC for an NT (no tax code). A form P85 may be relevant. An HR Services Payroll manager should then be consulted as soon as possible to discuss your arrangements.

National insurance

33. In outward overseas secondments national insurance will remain payable in the UK for at least the first 52 weeks (where the employee was resident in the UK immediately prior to the secondment). If the secondment is to an organisation in the European Economic Area (EEA), or a Reciprocal Agreement Country a Certificate of Coverage Form A1 should be applied for. This document will mean that the secondee will not normally have to pay contributions to the host country's social security scheme for up-to two years and will only continue to pay UK NI contributions in this time period.  Please see the HMRC web site for a list of EEA countries and those with reciprocal agreements with the UK.

34. In the first instance the HMRC should be contacted for information about the national insurance arrangements related to a specific secondee. An HR Services Payroll manager should then be consulted as soon as possible to discuss your arrangements.

35. If the secondment is inward to UCL from an EEA or reciprocal agreement country the substantive employer will normally apply for a Certificate of Coverage and UK NI contributions would not normally have to be made during the first two years.

UCL Secondment Templates

36. The UK secondment templates are below.  If the secondment will be overseas, please contact your HR Business Partner who will liaise with Legal Services.

Appendix 1

UCL Incoming Template Secondment Agreement.docx

Appendix 2

UCL Outgoing Template Secondment Agreement.docx

Appendix 3

Secondment letter to employee.docx

Appendix 4


September 2023