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Secondment Opportunities

SecondmentsWhat do we mean by interchange?

The term "interchange" covers a variety of activities, but we define the two main ones as follows.


If a civil servant moves to work in a different government department or agency, s/he is usually paid by the host department and is subject to the terms and conditions of the host department while working there. This is a loan.


If a civil servant moves to work outside the Civil Service (for example, to the wider public sector, industry or a charity), the usual arrangement is for the parent department to continue to pay the salary, but to recoup it from the host organisation. This is a secondment. The two organisations agree what terms and conditions apply, but these should usually be at least as favourable as in the Civil Service

We think interchange is important because it allows people from different organisations to learn from each other and share good practice, ideas and experience. On one hand it develops expertise within the Civil Service and so helps it provide better public services; on the other, organisations outside the Civil Service gain a useful insight into the workings of central government. In all cases interchange should have clear benefits for the individual, the parent organisation and the host organisation

This section promotes the concept of interchange, and suggests some key considerations for those interested in undertaking or arranging it. We cannot, however, become involved in individual cases.

If you have any queries regarding Interchange, please email them to

What's the point?

The government is committed to a professional, modern and flexible Civil Service focused on the needs of society. If they are to provide the level of service society has a right to expect, civil servants need the right skills, expertise and experience; and interchange is one of the ways we can bring that about.  It’s an opportunity for individuals to develop their careers and their professionalism at the same time, and this brings benefits to the parent department and host organisation too.

So interchange should benefit all three parties involved - the host organisation, the individual and the department or other employer. Here are some of the more obvious ways.

The host organisation

  • Infusion of new ideas contributed by someone with a slightly different perspective on your area of business
  • Increased understanding of policy making and the machinery of government
  • First-hand advice on managing relationships with government and the Civil Service
  • More open communication, and useful contacts
  • A chance to learn about alternative working practices

The department/employer

  • Better understanding of the impact on customers of department’s activities
  • A chance to learn about alternative working practices
  • A more flexible workforce with a wider knowledge/skills base
  • More open communication, and useful contacts
  • A creative way of meeting Professional Skills for Government requirements

 The individual

  • Ability to transfer skills by applying them in a new context
  • Greater confidence, flexibility and personal resilience, resulting from operating in an unfamiliar environment
  • Useful contacts on return to department/employer
  • Improved customer focus, and a broader outlook
  • Understanding of the practical implications of policy

What to do if you interested

Every government department and agency should have an Interchange programme, or at least a nominated individual (usually in the HR team) who can advise on and arrange interchange.

If you are interested in an outward secondment from the Civil Service, talk it over with your line manager before you do anything else. You’ll have to establish a good business case, and discuss the implications of releasing you for the Interchange. If you then agree to pursue the possibility, speak to your department's Interchange Manager.

If you are interested in a secondment into the Civil Service and are interested in a particular department, contact the appropriate Interchange Manager.

Making the most of interchange

It is important to be clear about what you would hope to achieve from interchange. Consider in particular:

  • what sort of skills, knowledge or experience you need to acquire or develop
  • what sort of interchange would best meet these requirements
  • how your department would benefit from the interchange
  • how you might identify the right opportunity
  • what skills, knowledge or experience you could offer a host organisation

Other points to bear in mind

  • Make sure everyone involved agrees clear objectives
  • Ensure the chosen activity and the length of time proposed are sufficient to meet those objectives
  • Agree and record terms and conditions, especially those involving financial arrangements and possible conflicts of interest
  • Agree how and by whom the value of the interchange will be assessed
  • Establish how individuals will keep in touch with their employers and put in place suitable arrangements for performance appraisal

It goes without saying that, on return to departments, individuals should have the chance to use or disseminate their new skills and experience. Only in this way can the full benefits of interchange be felt. A debriefing session should also take place immediately on return, so as to evaluate the interchange, learn any lessons and decide how to build on what has been achieved by it.

Best practice guides

To help guide you through participating in an Interchange, there is a document that you may find helpful:

Interchange Best Practice Guide

Interchange Directory

You will find a  listing of government departments and agencies, with contact details of their interchange managers here.  The best way to find out about the opprtunities available is to select the department you’re interested in and contact them directly.

If you find any of the contact details to be out of date, please let us know by emailing us at  Please include the name, email address and telephone number of the new interchange manager, if you have this information and we will update the contact information on the website accordingly.


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