Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Secondment / assignment

Q1. What is an assignment?

An assignment is a temporary move of an employee within his/her department or agency to temporarily perform the functions of a position that already exists or to take on a special project. The assignee continues to be the incumbent of his/her substantive position in his/her home organization while performing the assigned duties in the host organization. It is not obligatory for the employee on assignment to be "hosted" against a position number. The duties to be performed, however, must be specified.

An assignment may be undertaken for training or career development purposes. It also serves to enhance an organization's capacity through knowledge transfer in the host organization, as well as on the employee's return in the home organization.

An assignment cannot result in paying the assigned employee a salary higher than that obtained in his/her substantive position. This would be considered an acting appointment under the Public Service Employment Act.

Q2. What is a secondment and what is the difference between a secondment and an assignment?

A secondment is a temporary move of an employee to another department or agency in the core public administration (Schedule I and IV of the Financial Administration Act), and other organizations for which the Treasury Board is the Employer.

Secondments and assignments are both temporary lateral movements of an employee to perform the functions of a position that already exists or to take on a special project. However, while secondments are to another department (interdepartmental), assignments are within a department or agency (intradepartmental). In both cases, the employee maintains his/her substantive position in the home department/agency or organization, and is paid by the home department/agency or organization.

Like assignments, secondments may also be applied for career development purposes to gain breadth of knowledge and experience, as well as to help strengthen the capacity in the core public administration.

Q3. What is the purpose of assignments and secondments?

Assignments and secondments are resourcing options provided to Deputy Heads by the Treasury Board, as the Employer, under its authority as granted in the Financial Administration Act, to help facilitate intra- and inter-departmental mobility and lateral career development opportunities for employees. They provide for the temporary movement of employees within and across organizations to meet temporary operational needs, for training/learning, career development and knowledge transfer.

Q4. Who is eligible for assignments/secondments?

Employees for whom the Treasury Board is the employer (core public administration) are eligible to undertake assignments or secondments. Neither assignment nor secondment may change the employee's tenure.

Q5. Are assignments and secondments similar to development programs?

No. Although they provide opportunities for employees to gain experience that will assist in their career development and individual aspirations, assignments and secondments are not the same as development programs. The intent is for the employee to return to his/her substantive position on completion of the assignment or secondment.

Q6. How are assignments/secondments different from other Employer staffing flexibilities, such as deployments?

Assignments and secondments are temporary movements of the employee, who continues to be the incumbent of his/her substantive position and maintains the terms and conditions attached to his/her substantive position. A deployment, on the other hand, is a permanent move, a transfer from one substantive position to another substantive position, which may involve a change to the terms and conditions attached to the new position. On completion of an assignment/secondment, the employee returns to his/her substantive position, while on deployment, the employee vacates the former substantive position to assume incumbency in the new position.

Q7. What is the instrument of acceptance for an assignment or a secondment?  For example, in an appointment process it is the letter of offer.

The assignment or secondment agreement is the instrument of acceptance. It must clearly state that the employee returns to his/her substantive position on completion of the assignment/secondment. This may be supplemented by other documentation.

Q8. Can an assignment/secondment be for a higher level position?

No. An assignment/secondment cannot result in a promotion. Therefore, it must first be decided if the movement will result in a promotion (as stated in Part 2 of the Appendix to the TB Directive on Terms and Conditions of Employment, subsection 2.2.3). If so, it is to be treated as an acting appointment under the Public Service Employment Act and may then be subject to the application of merit and rights to recourse.

Q9. Is there a need to have documentation for an assignment or a secondment?

Yes, the assignment or secondment arrangement:

  • is covered by a written agreement between all parties, which specifies the period of the assignment/secondment, and any conditions;
  • ensures that the employee will return to his/her substantive position at the end of the assignment/secondment;
  • ensures that the employee remains on the payroll of the home sector/department/agency;
  • ensures the employee continues to be paid at his/her substantive group and level (if not in an acting situation);
  • ensures the employee's career development/progression possibilities are protected by the home sector/department/agency.

Documentation is especially important if the assignment or secondment is a means to help reintegrate a person on medical or sick leave back into the workplace to ensure that the assignment or secondment does not prevent the person from obtaining a priority entitlement. Absence of or ambiguity in the documentation could lead to a conclusion that the person has already returned to work and is working in their substantive position.

Q10. What type of information is included in an assignment/secondment agreement?

An assignment/secondment agreement should have the following information included:

  • Tombstone data;
  • Start and end dates;
  • Information on payment responsibilities for training of the assignee, membership fees, etc.;
  • Duties to be performed;
  • Information on performance evaluation and supervisor/manager responsibilities;
  • Process for approving/tracking periods of leave;
  • Notice period for changes to the agreement;
  • Financial codes and contact names for home and host organization, department or agency;
  • Approval signatures.

Q11. Can an assignment or secondment be extended?

Yes. An assignment or secondment is intended to be a temporary resourcing option with a specified time period for the lateral movement of an employee to temporarily perform the duties in another organizational unit or department. The period of assignment or secondment may be extended (or reduced) upon agreement of all parties. Assignments or secondments should not, however, be continuously extended.

Q12. How can separate agency employees or persons in Crown corporations temporarily work in the core public administration and vice versa?

The Interchange Canada Program is one mechanism through which persons employed in separate agencies and Crown corporations may be "seconded" to work in a department or agency for which Treasury Board is the Employer, and vice versa.

Q13. Where can I get more information?

Any enquiries or requests for additional information should be directed to your human resources (HR) advisor in your department or agency.  Should your departmental headquarters HR advisor be unable to respond to your query, he/she may contact Contact the Treasury Board by email: wpp-ppt@tbs-sct.gc.ca for further information.