Foreign office staff and royal engineers preparing to join a humanitarian needs assessment mission to Dominica. Photo by: Russell Watkins / DFID / CC BY

LONDON — Staff of the Department for International Development who do not hold British nationality are facing an uncertain future as it merges with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office next month.

A notice from DFID’s Chief People Officer Helen Mills published on the staff intranet this week explains that non-U.K. staff can continue in their current roles when they transfer over to the new Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, “up to any pre-agreed end dates.”

However, they will not be eligible to change roles until the department’s approach to nationality requirements has been determined, with some planned job moves now suspended.

The issue affects “home civil servants” appointed in the U.K. or under U.K. terms and conditions of service, who made up more than 75% of DFID’s 3,269 staff as of March 2018. DFID would not say what proportion of these employees are non-U.K. nationals.

One staff member, who spoke to Devex on condition of anonymity, said they felt the atmosphere was becoming more hostile to non-U.K. staff.

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European Union nationals and some others are eligible for many jobs in the U.K. civil service, including within DFID. However, most jobs in FCO are reserved for U.K. nationals, since they are considered to require “special allegiance to the Crown,” according to the Civil Service Nationality Rules.

Roles within the new FCDO will be reserved for U.K. nationals by default, although this could change after a policy review.

In the meantime — to avoid any compulsory redundancies, which the government has promised will not happen — the notice describes an “interim” solution under which any post currently held by a non-U.K. national will be granted unreserved status for the duration of their tenure.

This allows non-U.K. staff to continue in their current roles, but “until a long-term approach is agreed, such staff will ... not be eligible to move within DFID or FCDO,” according to the notice.

A long-term approach is expected to be determined around the end of September. While pre-planned job moves will be allowed to take place until that date, non-U.K. nationals who were expecting to take up new roles on or after Oct. 1 will now have those plans “placed on hold.”

“We know that this will be disappointing for many of our colleagues … We are trying to work as hard and as fast as we can to give you more answers and more certainty about your long-term career in the FCDO,” Mills wrote.

The change does not affect local staff appointed in-country.

Asked about the issue, a government spokesperson said only that “we have been regularly communicating with all staff to help them get ready for the launch of the new FCDO, which will combine the very best of DFID and FCO.”

About the authors

  • Jessica Abrahams

    Jessica Abrahams is Editor of Devex Pro. Based in London, she helps to oversee news, features, data analysis, events, and newsletters for Devex subscribers. She previously served as Deputy News Editor and as an Associate Editor, with a particular focus on Europe. Before joining Devex, she worked as a writer, researcher, and editor for Prospect magazine, The Telegraph, and Bloomberg News, among other outlets. She holds graduate degrees in journalism from City University London and in international relations from Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals.
  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at