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GSS > Careers > Career development > Loans and secondments

Loans and secondments

Loans and secondments are work placements in another organisation. They can last a few weeks, months, a year or more. They might be to another government department, a charity, or the private sector.

Loan

This occurs when an individual transfers to a different post in another department within the civil service for an agreed period of time. If moving to another department the member of staff transfers over to the host department’s payroll and terms and conditions.

Secondment

Similar to a loan but instead of moving to another department an employee would move to an organisation outside of the civil service.

The member of staff remains on their home department’s payroll and the host department is invoiced to recover the costs. In some circumstances (for example when going on secondment to a charity), the home department would continue to pay the individual’s salary for the duration of the secondment.

Benefits

The host organisation values the skills and experience brought by the secondee/person on loan.

The secondee/person on loan  gains new skills and experience which they may not have been able to get in their own organisation. This in turn benefits their organisation when they return.

The links built across the organisations can also be valuable.

How do I find loan and secondment opportunities?

Some opportunities are advertised as vacancies, or you might identify an opportunity yourself that matches your development needs.

You might like to consider the analytical volunteer program. This scheme arranges short placements (up to five days) for statisticians, social researchers, operational researchers, and economists to provide analytical support to voluntary sector organisations.

Organisations that might offer opportunities:

  • Academic institutions
  • International organisations such as European Union, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • Charities that use government statistics, for example Shelter and Barnardos
  • Think Tanks such as the Work Foundation or the Kings Fund
  • Market research firms
  • Customer insight teams in big retailers
  • Media organisations
  • Companies that produce and publish sports statistics
  • Polling companies, such as Ipsos Mori (particularly their public policy teams)
  • Financial firms
  • NHS
  • Local authorities
  • Police Forces
  • Bank of England
  • Other government departments
  • Art councils

Steps to organise a loan or secondment placement

Step 1: Identify the skills and experience you would like to learn

A loan or secondment is ideal when you identify a development need that you are unlikely to be able to gain as effectively within your own organisation.

For example, you may feel that you would benefit from experience working with specific types of data or analysis techniques, working within a specific type of organisation, or working somewhere you can gain a greater understanding about your sector.

Step 2: Approach your Head of Profession or line manager to discuss your idea

Different departments have different rules about loans and secondments, but there is strong central corporate recognition that they can play an important role helping people achieve and demonstrate their competences, so your management should be supportive.

Explain what you hope to achieve and how this will benefit your department.

Step 3: Identify and approach the organisation you would like to work with

You may already have a contact in the organisation that you can approach to discuss the placement. Alternatively you can ask your line manager or Head of Profession (HoP) to approach the host organisation at a more senior level, to explain the idea and to gain their buy-in.

They will probably want to meet you or speak with you before agreeing. Be prepared to discuss why you are interested in working in their organisation, what you would be able to offer, what you hope to achieve and how long you expect the placement to last.

Step 4: You may need to develop a business case to support your application

Your business case should describe:

  • the reason for the loan or secondment placement
  • the benefit it will bring in terms of your own skills and experience
  • what you will be able to offer the host organisation
  • how the skills and experience will benefit your own department when you return
  • what the arrangements will be for covering your job while you are away

Step 5: After you gain agreement in principle, arrange details with the host organisation

Make sure:

  • you discuss when will the placement happen and exactly how long will it last
  • you have a clear specification of what your role will be and what you expect to get out of the placement
  • you confirm who will pay your salary and any on the job travel expenses

Step 6: Keep in touch and seek feedback

While on your placement your host organisation will be responsible for performance management, but keep in touch with your home department through your line manager or Head of Profession.

Actively seek feedback from your host department, to make sure you are fulfilling their expectations.

Step 7: Review and share

As you approach the end of the placement, review how it has gone and ask for feedback.

When you return, document and share your experience.

Maintain links with the organisation and let the GSS careers team and your department know how it went.

Find out if there will be the opportunity to organise future placements for others.

Louisa McCutcheon a statistician from the Department of Health went on a secondment to Full Fact

I was attracted to a secondment at Full Fact by the unique opportunity to see how politicians and the media use government data and to learn how to communicate statistics in new and engaging ways. The three months I spent there offered me this and so much more.

I got involved in lots of Full Fact’s day-to- day work; monitoring the press and social media to see what claims were being made and helping research the data behind these claims. I joined the team in broadcasting house to live factcheck the BBC’s flagship political programme, Question Time, and attended a Public Administration Select Committee session to hear evidence about the government’s progress on providing open data.

My main project was researching and writing a  good practice guide for members of the GSS, explaining how we can improve and standardise the way we publish data in spreadsheets to make it easier for users to find and reuse the data they need. This was a great opportunity to see what statisticians are doing across government, and to speak to journalists about how they find our data, what they do with it and how we could do it better.

Three years later, I still feel my secondment to Full Fact is one of the best development opportunities I’ve had. While there, I improved my writing style and learnt how to present data in simple but interesting and engaging ways. It has since given me confidence to challenge policy, press and senior colleagues on the appropriate use and presentation of statistics and it has broadened my understanding of how think tanks and researches use data to inform policy development. 

Daniel Hawksworth went on loan to Scottish Government from the Department for Transport

I joined the civil service in 2012 and my first two statistician postings were with the Department for Transport (DfT) in Westminster. Both of these roles were focussed on the production of statistics, and neither had a great deal of policy engagement. After two years in the DfT I thought that it was high-time that I spread my wings and fly the nest.

Towards the end of my second posting, I signed up for the daily digests from civil service jobs for any job adverts tagged as statistical or analytical. These emails trickled in, and applications opened and closed, without any of the advertised postings grabbing my attention. A ‘Scottish Government’ statistics advert then caught my eye and I decided that it would be good to escape the hustle, bustle and pollution of London for a while.

I wasn’t able to apply for the job advert directly as I was a fast streamer, but I got in touch with the Head of Profession in Scottish Government and explained my situation. Following the recruitment round, there were still a couple of unfilled vacancies and I managed to secure a loan into one of these empty posts.

My posting to the Scottish Government offered me the chance to tick some previously empty skills boxes. The post, within health statistics, was focussed on the communication and dissemination of statistics, rather than on their production. In fact, the overwhelming majority of statistics that I referred to during this role were produced by a division of NHS Scotland.

The posting involved producing briefings and submissions to the First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary and other ministers. My role was integrated into a policy division, and I had extensive day-to-day contact with policy customers. This is something that I had not experienced during my time in London. I found that levels of integration and policy contact were generally higher within the Scottish Government, because the departments are not compartmentalised in the same way as the different department buildings in Whitehall.

My role had a large remit – covering different health topic areas, including Cancer, Psychological Treatments and Accident and Emergency. I was the lead Scottish Government analyst for many of these areas, which made me the go-to contact for any policy or ministerial queries. The responsibility of this expertise was also an experience that I had not had during my previous postings.

I now feel much better prepared for future postings, and feel that the experiences gained while on loan have given me a unique edge when the time comes to apply for promotion.

In summary: go for it!

 

If you have organised your own loan or secondment we would really like to share your story. Please email us to tell us about it: gss.careers@ons.gov.uk 

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