Can a substantive post be advertised if the person is on secondment?

A colleague went to do a secondment which was extended and will be reviewed early next year.
In the meantime I am getting pressurised by my senior managers to advertise her original job. I
personally feel I can’t advertise her job whilst she is on a secondment as she hasn’t resigned from
her original post.
I have been told that she can’t have the best of both worlds and has to make a decision to come
back to her original job or take a chance on the secondment becoming a permanent post.
I have spoken to the staff member and explained that we are having to advertise her post and she
is very upset that she may be out of a job if the secondment doesn’t work out. I explained that
she would have a guaranteed job elsewhere in the organisation but we have to staff our
area as we have been without her for longer than the agreed time.
I feel very torn. She is now
stating she feels bullied by us to resign from her previous post and we are in breach of
secondment rules by doing this. Is that so?

Employee Rights


The role you are being asked to advertise is your colleague’s substantive role, and that remains the case even during this secondment period. It is not unreasonable that she is upset by the way the situation is being handled, but there are ways of dealing with it sensitively and to limit risk to team morale and the organisation.

The first step is to check the secondment agreement and the extension agreement, and to ensure that you are aware of what was agreed with her and with the other department regarding her role with your team and cover for that role. We would expect for example, that there would have been a discussion internally as to how her role would be covered if and when the secondment was extended.

If there is little or no specific agreement in place regarding this aspect, then the next step is to consider whether you could simply advertise for a temporary cover only. That would allow the role to be covered until the review of the secondment, and you can at that time require your seconded colleague to decide if she is returning to her substantive role in your team, or remaining in the secondment role.

If you decide to hire someone to do the role permanently, your managers and the organisation should identify why a temporary arrangement would not suffice and understand the risks of proceeding. Advertising and hiring a permanent employee to perform a job held by an existing employee is almost certainly going to be a breach of the relationship and contract with the employee.

In terms of progressing this situation, I recommend you check the terms of the secondment agreement, hire a temporary cover and formally review the situation early next year when the secondment review occurs. That will allow everyone time to plan and consider their positions. Furthermore, if your colleague feels she is being bullied, that should be dealt with as a formal grievance and if she has not already done so she will need to put her concerns in writing and raise it with HR. If she has already put it in writing I recommend you speak to the HR department to instigate the grievance process.

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