Advice

‘Can I bring my girlfriend on my international secondment?’

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We’ve been living apart for some time and would both be miserable having to be separated again 👫

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one future trainee solicitor is unsure on whether he should ask his law firm’s HR department if he can bring his girlfriend on the six-month international secondment that forms part of his training contract.

Hi Legal Cheek team, I’m about to start my training contract soon and I know my firm is big on international secondments. It’s a great opportunity and something I would very much like to take advantage of as I think both personally and professionally it can be extremely fulfilling.

However, I would like to be able to bring my girlfriend along. Is this generally allowed, will law firms typically sponsor both you and your partner (e.g. for the visa, accommodation, etc.)?

How could I best approach this subject with HR? I obviously don’t want to make it sound like I’m treating the secondment like a holiday with my partner, and I know it’s only six months, but we’ve been living apart for quite some time prior to this and I think both of us would be fairly miserable having to be separated again for half a year now that we’re finally living together.

I’m interested in hearing people’s thoughts on whether they have experience / know someone who was in this situation, and just any general tips on how to make use of this opportunity.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.

39 Comments

HR guy

You should ask.

And can I be there when you do?

(128)(1)

Matt

I did a year-long international secondment at a US firm and they let me bring my wife with me to Singapore.

(4)(3)

Pass the

crack pipe

(36)(1)

Boutique Holiday Planner for Trainee Solicitors

What about the dog? Surely mum and dad MUST come along as well. And what about your best pals? They wouldn’t want to be left out now would they?

(79)(10)

FN Snowflakes

Teddy bears, I reckon this secondment would involve the transportation of a lot of teddy bears.

(4)(1)

Just, please

Please don’t ask this.

(61)(4)

Seconded Trainee

If living without your GF for 6 months is going to be an issue, maybe just consider not doing a secondment all together…..

(97)(1)

Anonymous

The fact that you’re even asking the question strongly points to the fact that you won’t be offered such a secondment in the first place

(48)(6)

Ghost

This is not an AirB&B mate.

Leave her at home, she surely must have her own things to do. You both should grant a hall pass to each other and enjoy your time apart. Come back to being lovebirds again or better still cheat like everyone else does. what she does not know cannot hurt her but just so you know she will be doing the same to you here.

Have fun on your secondment mate.

The key to success is sacrifice.

(34)(87)

Exmc

These are really odd responses. Used to work at an MC firm and it was totally normal for partners to be invited to go on secondment if they wanted to. And the firm paid for it.

(58)(6)

OP

Thank you for the response, that’s actually helpful to know. Did people generally discuss this with HR prior to applying / accepting a secondment, or was it best left for after you secured a place?

(1)(0)

Level Up, Girl

Why exactly should she uproot her life because of your loneliness?

If you like it, put a ring on it. Otherwise, leave her so she can find someone else who will.

(33)(12)

Anon

OP is seriously regretting coming to LC for relationship advice

(13)(0)

Anon

As others have said, don’t ask. It is even silly to think about.

On a side note, do people actually cheat? I’ve not witnessed any of that but something about the previous comment makes me think it’s not entirely satire.

(7)(7)

Helpful Harry

Categorise her as your emotional support animal and it will be approved. Lots of snowflakes have them.

(31)(13)

Tricky Dicky

Tricky one.

The firm may think you’re not committed enough if you ask.

(5)(8)

SC

If there are any junior associates that have been on secondment you trust not to speak to HR about your enquiry, broach the subject with them first. It could either be totally normal or taboo to even ask depending on the firm and its treatment of trainees (which you will obviously have a better sense of than LC commenters).

If a junior associate you ask doesn’t know, it may also be worth gauging their opinion about how HR dealt with other types of requests concerning secondment. If the firm’s general approach is very much “our way or the high way”, it could be more likely to be considered bad practise.

(24)(2)

Mr Worldwide

Leave her at home. Bring a different one back with you.

(47)(7)

Anonymous

Is this satire?

(13)(1)

Cleetus

Who cares? When are you going to break the news about Freshfields’ new salary scale? 130k for 1PQE, 150k for 2 PQE.

(2)(5)

If you don't ask you don't get

Firms are becoming more sensitive to people’s work life balance, mental health etc so it might not be that bad to ask. However I would first try and gage from others who have done the secondment, what information they were given about the relocation and it they know anyone with a partner who came along or was given budget to visit etc. I wouldn’t use “girlfriend”, partner sounds like a more serious relationship. If you do ask HR, don’t say “can my girlfriend come”, phrase it in a more generic way like “what normally happens on a secondment if you have a partner or family commitments”.

(60)(2)

American Firm Associate

If it were a wife you would have a better case. And if it were on an associate secondment for a year (or more) you’d also have a better case. My firm has sponsored visas and health insurance for associates’ spouses and children when relocating them to the Middle East. I suspect that’s normal for the industry.

For a non-married spouse I think it’s highly unlikely they would sponsor a visa, in particular, because for immigration purposes, most countries won’t recognise a non-married spouse/ non-legally recognised domestic partner as being entitled to be a plus 1 on an employment visa.

Accommodation is different. I wouldn’t expect them to pay for extra accommodation on a trainee secondment than they otherwise would because there would be two residents as opposed to one (it’s slightly different if it’s a long-term associate secondment, but in most cases a firm will require you to arrange your own accommodation on an associate secondment after an initial bedding in period).

But at the same time just because you’re being sent on secondment, your firm can’t deny you a personal life in your own abode (even if they are renting the abode for you, during that secondment).

So if your girlfriend can arrange her own visa and health insurance and you’re not asking for extra accommodation then it shouldn’t be a problem for the HR to allow you to share the accommodation. You would need to be upfront about it if HR are going to be holding the lease directly with the landlord, in order that HR ensure appropriate compliance with landlord terms on number of residents etc.

(50)(1)

Archibald Pomp O'City

A far more sensible and informed response than the sophomoric drivel offered by the majority.

(10)(0)

Legalseagull

I don’t understand why people think this is so unreasonable. It’s toxic. It’s also at risk of being indirect age and sex discrimination. What about older trainees who might be married and have young children. Older women do get training contracts but might not be able to accept if they can’t move families with them

(26)(13)

Bleuch

Sadly I doubt this is satire. Shows the snowflake mindset now.

(4)(14)

Anon

If you read the OP, the question isn’t about spouses, civil partners or children. This isn’t about some long established relationship. It’s about a girl the OP said they only recently started living with. Your outrage is misdirected.

(12)(1)

OP

Sorry, OP here – we’ve been together for 10 years (yes, ten, we hooked up as teenagers and have been together ever since) but due to various circumstances that I won’t go into here, we haven’t been able to properly live together until recently. So it is very much a long established relationship, and it’s your preconceptions that are misdirected.

(21)(4)

Anon

Nonsense, because there has always been a difference in treatment between a spouse (or civil partner) and other partners. If you wanted legal standing for a relationship you need to go the route of giving it legal standing.

(5)(0)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Not every wish that’s denied in employment makes a discrimination case, you know.

(4)(1)

From experience

There’s always the option of bringing her along and not telling anyone. When my MC girlfriend was on secondment, I just tagged along and stayed in the apartment. Things are perhaps a little trickier now because of Brexit wrt visas etc but if you can surmount that then just bring her with you.

(15)(1)

Relin

Think strategically

(1)(1)

MM

People in the comments show such a low understanding of *anything* I am really shocked it’s so hard to get a TC these days. I work at EY and I know nobody would be mad at me if I asked this question. Maybe they’d just refuse and simply explain why. If your firm is different, then I’m sorry but you need to likely get a different job because that’s just harassment. lol.

(17)(7)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Do you even know what “harassment” means? Cos it don’t mean what you think.

(4)(1)

Anon

My girlfriend was sent on a trainee secondment to Asia when I was still a student. The timing worked well for my uni holidays and I went to live with here for a couple of months in the flat she was provided with. The country in question allowed a six month stay for tourism without a visa so all I did was book my flights. Unless the secondment is longer would recommend this route.

(13)(0)

Ex Secondee

I trained in the MC and am now in a US firm and went on international secondment while in the MC firm.

This is a wrong question to ask but not for the reasons above. When you go on secondment you’ll get a place to live. Who you bring to that place is irrelevant to HR as long as you keep the place reasonably clean, etc. I’ve had plenty of friends who brought their boyfriends/girlfriends over to their secondment accommodation with no issue on a long term basis – and there is no reason it should be; no one really cares unless you make their job more difficult.

If you want your HR to get your girlfriend a visa, that’s not going to happen.

(20)(0)

Seriously

Look at the state of the comments section. No wonder law is toxic.

(2)(3)

Former MC trainee

A lot of these responses are really odd. I went on an international secondment with a MC firm a couple of years ago. My boyfriend stayed with me for four out of the six months I was there. I didn’t feel the need to mention that to HR (and nor do I think they would have cared had I done so). I would suggest perhaps delaying your partner joining you for the first few weeks so you can properly settle in and meet all of your colleagues, although ultimately that’s up to you. The only way I can see it being a problem is if you’re living with the other trainees on secondment – in which case, that is something you should discuss with HR / the other trainees in question, especially if the apartment is small when your partner staying could be a real imposition. Otherwise, you’ve been given a place to stay and it’s up to you to decide whether you want to invite anyone to stay there with you.

(10)(0)

Commenter

Spouse support is not typically provided for short term secondments (~6 months) but there is nothing to stop you bringing her without sponsorship from your HR team. If it were a long term secondment (12+ months) and you were married, the case would be different.

(2)(0)

An actual lawyer

Crikey many of these responses are very odd. There would be nothing in the least bit untoward about asking, nor indeed in simply telling HR that your partner intends to join you (presuming she can sort out her own visa) and asking them what the impact would be on accommodation.

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.

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