UCL Human Resources


Secondment Guidance*

*The Internal Secondment section has been temporarily revised to reflect the current recruitment freeze.



1.  Properly arranged and managed, secondments can be constructive and beneficial to UCL and its staff. 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 secondment agreements.

2.  Secondments will normally be either:

Internal:between two UCL faculties/ divisions/ departments or from a member of staff within the same department - for example to cover a period of leave
External Outward:from a UCL employee to an external organisation or
External Inward:from an external organisation to UCL

3.  The secondment can be either full time or part time.

Internal Secondments

4.    This procedure sets out the means by which UCL staff may be deployed temporarily across the university against the backdrop of a general recruitment freeze to ensure:

  • continued efficient running of the university;
  • a fair process for the selection and deployment of such staff;
  • a means of taking lawful positive action to address issues of underrepresented groups 

It replaces all previous guidance for internal secondments outlined in the UCL secondment guidance for the duration of the present recruitment freeze.  The secondment procedure involving external parties remains unaltered.


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

6.    Secondment allows UCL to maintain critical services across the University, and to deploy skills where they are most needed, on a temporary basis and without making a permanent commitment.

7.    The opportunity also allows the secondee to broaden their experience and develop skills while retaining the right to return to their substantive post at the end of the secondment. The acquisition of additional knowledge and experience may add to the skills base of the seconding department.

8.    Secondment may be utilised for a variety of reasons, for example, to cover vacant roles, to undertake specific projects, or to assist areas where there are peaks in workload.  

Secondments may be put in place via one of two routes:

i)         Urgent Secondment of Staff
II)        Secondment via internal advertisement

Urgent Secondment of staff 

9.     There will be occasions where staff will need to be seconded with very short notice to assist areas where there are critical business needs because of, for example, peaks in activity and/or a freeze on recruiting agency/casual staff. 

10.    Where the recruiting manager has a need for people they will obtain financial approval. They will then communicate their requirements to all Directors, Deans and Heads of Department (“leaders”).  

11.    Leaders will review their staff complement and seek to identify individuals who have the requisite skills who may be released on a short or long term basis (full or part time) and are willing to be seconded.  Having identified any person(s) who may be released the leader will discuss this with the recruiting manager and agree on arrangements to be made with regard to the temporary transfer of the individual.

12.    Where there are not enough voluntary secondees, managers may need to ask staff to be seconded and consideration will be given as to whether this constitutes a reasonable instruction as laid out in UCL contracts of employment. In this case, advice should be sought from the appropriate HR Business Partner.

13.    Where an individual moves to work with another team the recruiting manager will bear the cost of that person’s work in the receiving department.  The person relocating will be paid the grade for the role they are covering unless they are covering a lower graded role in which case their salary and benefits will remain unchanged. 

14.    The secondment will be reviewed at three month intervals. At this point, should there be an ongoing need for the secondment to continue beyond this point the secondee will be consulted with an option to return to their substantive role. In these circumstances the following process would apply to re-filling the post.

Secondment via Internal Advertisement

15.    The process for advertising a secondment opportunity can be found at Appendix 1.  Line managers should complete the Secondment Advert Template which includes obtaining financial approval.   

Applying for a secondment

16.    Redeployees who wish to apply for a secondment opportunity must indicate in the application form (see Appendix 3) that they are a redeployee and their priority status (see Redeployment Policy).  If they demonstrate in their application that they meet the essential criteria for the role (or could do so with reasonable training) they will be interviewed alongside other internal applicants. If the redeployee is appointable following interview, they will be appointed ahead of other candidates, on a fixed term contract.  A trial period of four weeks will apply.  At the end of the fixed term contract, should the redeployee leave UCL's employ, a redundancy payment based on full continuity of service will be payable. 

17.    Other staff wishing to apply for a secondment must discuss this with their existing line manager before applying. The line manager can then consider whether the employee can be released for the secondment and how the employee’s existing role could be covered during the secondment. Part time secondments should be considered.   

18.    Managers may consider acting-up arrangements or an additional secondment to cover the secondee’s substantive role, subject to the normal approval process.  

19.    If the line manager is unable to agree to the secondment they should discuss the rationale for the decision with the staff member. While allowing employees to take secondments is encouraged, it is acknowledged that it will not always be possible, especially during the current recruitment freeze. For example if there is urgent work which cannot be covered, or the post holder has specialist technical knowledge that would be difficult to replace for a limited period, then it may not be possible to release an employee for secondment. If a manager declines to support a full time secondment for this reason, part time secondments may be explored as an option.   

20.    Applicants must indicate in their application form whether their line manager supports their application.  If they are not supported, the recruiting manager will not process the application.   

Selecting people for internal secondments

21.    The appointed candidate should be selected based on the Person Specification, as defined in the Job Description for the role, in line with the guidance given in the Recruitment and Selection policy

22.    Line managers are expected to take action on equality and diversity initiatives.  Where it can be demonstrated that there are two or more appointable candidates, preference should be given to appointing the candidate whose protected characteristic is under-represented within the department.   

23.    After interview, the recruiting manager may make a conditional offer, subject to the necessary checks. They will request a reference from the employee’s line manager, ensure that there are no restrictions on their right-to-work in the role and, if required, obtain a DBS check.

24.    A secondee will normally commence their secondment as soon as possible and on a date mutually agreed between the respective line managers.   If the secondee cannot be released soon enough to meet the need of the secondment, the recruiting manager may appoint their second preferred candidate.

Formalising the Secondment

25.    Regardless of which of the two secondment routes is taken, arrangements must be put in place as follows:

26.     The Departmental Manager should submit a Transfer of Appointment form in MyHR Departmental Transactions. 

27.    HR Services will issue a letter setting out the terms – grade, salary and duration of the secondment – as well as the secondees right to return to their substantive role.

Induction and developmental planning

28.    Secondees must be suitably inducted into the role and managers will establish agreed developmental goals with the secondee and the substantive line manager.  It is important that a secondee’s performance is managed.  If a secondee’s line manager is not satisfied with their performance (following support and training, or reasonable adjustments), they may end the secondment early (see below, Ending a secondment). 

29.    An employee will be consulted in the normal way if their substantive post could be affected by organisational change while they are on secondment.

30.    If agreed by all parties the secondment maybe extended by a further 3 months without advertising. For example, the secondment could be extended if there is an extension to maternity leave or if a project overruns.

Ending a secondment

31.    Exceptionally, if the secondee requests this, or if there is a business need, or if the secondee is underperforming in the role, the manager may consider an early termination of the secondment arrangement. They should discuss this with the secondee and raise this with the HR Business Partner in the first instance. If it is agreed to bring the secondment to an end, they should then discuss this prospect with the secondee’s substantive line manager so that they can make arrangements for the secondee to return to their substantive role. The manager will need to give at least one week’s formal notice of the ending of the arrangement to the secondee.    

32.    After the secondment has continued for 12 months, the secondment should be reviewed as to whether or not it has in fact become an open ended role, and annually thereafter. 

33.    If a secondment becomes an open ended (permanent) role, then the following process applies:

   a.    Seconded redeployees should simply be confirmed in post. 

   b.    In other cases, the manager will need to advertise the role to current redeployees only, for 5 working days, and the recruitment policy as it applies to redeployees would be followed. 

   c.    If no suitable redeployee is found and appointed, the manager should first offer the role to the secondee (subject to a confirmatory interview).  

   d.    If the secondee is not confirmed in post, or declines the offer, the manager should then advertise the post more widely, in accordance with the Recruitment Policy. The secondee would then return to their substantive role.  

External Secondments

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

35  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

36.     External inward secondments occur when UCL wishes to deploy a member of staff from an external organisation who has specific skills and abilities needed to fulfil a particular role or project. This role or project will be of a limited duration. 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.

37.     Guidance on issues relating specifically to overseas secondments can be found in paragraphs 50 to 55 below.


38.     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

39.     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. This will specify that 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.

40. If a department wishes to set up an external 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. If it is an outward secondment UCL will normally provide the secondment agreement to be signed. If the secondment is inward the external organisation will normally provide the agreement.

Terms and Conditions

41.     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.

42.     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.

43.     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

44.     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.

45.     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.

Pay arrangements

46.     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. 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.


47.     In normal situations a UCL employee undertaking a secondment at another organisation will be able to continue paying into their UCL pension. Pension deductions will continue as normal from the salary that continues to be paid by UCL.

Insurance and indemnity

48.     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, for example a secondee based at UCL will be covered by UCL's Public Liability Policy where UCL is found to be legally liable for any claim.

49.     It is normal practise 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 at the end of this guidance.

Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

50.     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

51     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.

Right to work

52.     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.


53.     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

54.     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.

The Reward Manager (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.


55.     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. To become a non-resident for income tax in the UK the employee must be in full time employment overseas for a complete tax year. In addition visits to the UK must total fewer than 183 days in any tax year and average fewer than 91 days a tax year (taken over a period of up to a maximum of four years). 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 a no tax code. A form P85 may be relevant. Payroll managers should then be consulted as soon as possible to discuss your arrangements.

National insurance

56.     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 either a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Certificate of Coverage should be applied for. These documents will mean that the secondee will not normally have to pay contributions to the host country's social security scheme for the first 52 weeks and will only pay UK NI contributions in this time period. With effect from March 2010, new European Social Security Regulations will allow secondees going to other EEA countries to stay in their home country social security system for up to 24 months. Please see the HMRC web site for a list of EEA countries and those with reciprocal agreements with the UK. In the first instance the HMRC should be contacted for information about the national insurance arrangements related to a specific secondee. Payroll managers should then be consulted as soon as possible to discuss your arrangements.

If the secondment is inward to UCL from an EEA or reciprocal agreement country the substantive employer will normally apply for an EHIC or Certificate of Coverage and UK NI contributions would not normally have to be made during the first 52 weeks.

UCL Secondment Templates

57. Please contact your HR Business Partner for the correct secondment template to use.

Appendix 1 


Appendix 2


Appendix 3


January 2021