The term “assignment” is often used for both secondment situations and for those situations where an individual employee works for an affiliate or at a branch office of the same employer. Where the assignment is to another country, the terms ‘posting’ or ‘detachment’ is often used. In all cases, the concept is the same in that the employee continues to be employed by the same employer but the work that is carried out is for the benefit of another undertaking.
A prerequisite for any assignment is the consent of the employee. This may already exist if the Contract of Employment already provides for the arrangements in relation to any assignment. This may be in the form of a mobility clause under which the employer is entitled to relocate the employee. Regardless of the existence of such clauses, it is always advisable for employers to consult fully with any employee prior to any final decision on any assignment. Any attempt to impose such an assignment without an employee’s express consent will inevitably amount to a unilateral variation of the employment contract and can lead to constructive dismissal claims.
It is often the case that changes to the terms and conditions of employment are necessary as a result of any assignment. However, as indicated above, employers cannot unilaterally vary any contract and any changes must therefore be agreed.
Given the general nature of assignments, it is not unusual for employees to be given additional benefits or monies to offset any costs arising from the assignment. These will normally include paid home leave if the assignment is some distance from the employer’s home, payment of housing costs, payment of school fees, payments of the cost of travel, and payment of relocation costs to the new work place, if appropriate.
Importantly, the arrangements for the employer’s return to the original place of employment should always be covered within any agreement alongside the duration of the assignment. These should be agreed in advance and should contain any conditions relating to the early termination of the assignment by either party.