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I have been on an internal secondment within my organisation for three and a half year. Originally it was for one year, but it was extended as a temporary promotion which HR confirmed was an extension of the secondment. It is now coming to an end and my organisation want to send me back to my original substantive post. I agreed to the extension, but in hindsight I did not understand the significant difference between temporary promotion and secondment. My substantive post is of a lower grade and less money. My post through internal secondment will no longer exist. Is there anything I can do regarding this? Is there any possibility of asking for redundancy or a move to a similar graded post etc?
Employment contracts can be varied by an employer and employee, either expressly or implied through custom and practice. Express variations are explicit, for example, by having a letter signed to confirm the change. Implied variations occur through custom and practice, meaning that they have been long-standing, are well known to both you and the employer, and you have a reasonable expectation that the change is well known.
In this case, you agreed to be seconded to the current role. The business is calling this now a temporary promotion. Secondments and temporary promotions are typically intended to be temporary arrangements. There is no legal limit on the duration of secondments. The email and communications you have received from your employer support the intention that your time in the current role is temporary, as I note the emails state quite explicitly it is temporary, has an end date and is being regularly reviewed.
Based on this information, it appears that your permanent role continues to be your substantive role and it is not unreasonable for the organisation to ask that you return to it. There is no entitlement to a redundancy payment for leaving the temporary role. It is unlikely that you can argue there has been a permanent variation to your contract for these reasons.
Practically, I recommend you check your employer’s internal policies and the terms of the secondment agreement as these may put a time limit on secondments or temporary promotions. If they do, then you are in a stronger position. Equally, if you were told by managers or the organisation that your substantive role had changed to the current role, this will help you argue that your contract has been varied and therefore you should be treated as being employed in the current role and that, if you are not to be treated as redundant, that you are put into a similar role.
However, you will need some evidence of this from the manager themselves. A pragmatic organisation would be keen to utilise the additional skills and experience you have accrued during the past 3.5 years and seek to retain you albeit in a similarly graded role rather than having you return to your previous role and potentially experience reduced morale as a result. If the organisation does not engage with you about this in a meaningful way, you could raise a grievance and ask that they agree the contract has been varied and that you are put into a similarly graded role.
*Maria Hoeritzauer is a Partner at Crossland Employment Solicitors in Abingdon.