Working as a Locum
Many vets spend some time as a locum over the course of their career, indeed some choose to do it forever. Working as a locum provides complete flexibility and can be arranged to suit your schedule and needs. Considerable amounts of tax can also be saved through locum work, both for the locum and the practice. On the downside the work can be irregular, involve travel and can often involve sole-charge, not ideal for the new graduate. Most practices prefer locums to have at least 1-2 years experience in practice, although some practices will accept a new graduate.
Finding locum work:
There are many options for finding locum work including:
Many locums will use a combination of these methods. As you gain more experience as a locum and build up a good relationship with practices you may be able to fill your time working for a small number of practices.
As a locum there are different options as to how to be paid and in turn pay tax. The 4 main options are:
The majority of new locums work either under PAYE or an umbrella company.One of the advantages of umbrella companies is that you can claim tax relief on someexpenses incurred. However this may be offset by the weekly charges levied by the umbrella company and the fact that Employer’s National Insurance will also come out of your pay. For long term locums creating a limited company is definitely a better and more tax beneficialoption. Being self-employed is another option but it can have its disadvantages as some practices will not employ self-employed locums due to the possible tax implications.Whichever option you choose it is advisable to talk to an accountant, preferably one with experience in both self-employed status andveterinary taxation matters, and to read up on current tax information on www.hmrc.gov.uk, although it should be noted that HMRC will not assist you with tax planning and their guidance on self-employed status is questioned by specialists in the field.
It is important to make sure that you are covered by adequate professional indemnity insurance while working as a locum. There are many insurance companies out there but the majority of the veterinary profession are covered by the Veterinary Defence Society (VDS). Most practices can put you on their practice VDS cover for the duration you are working for them. However it is important to be aware that while working as a locum you will not be covered under the practice policy in respect of criminal and disciplinary proceedings. Also should a claim be brought against you after you leave you will no longer be covered by the policy and would be liable. It is therefore very wise to arrange your own VDS cover as an individual so that you are covered for every eventuality.If you are working through a limited company, it is advisable that the insurance is in the company’s name, as it is the company that may be challenged in a claims case.
The key to being a well respected locum lies in being both reliable and prepared.In advance of your first day at a practice make sure you have the full address and directions to get there, know your start time (although you should always be early on your first day!) and who your contact person at the practice is. It is also important to be dressed appropriately and to have a good supply of your own consult coats, a pair of scrubs and theatre shoes as many small animal practices now require these. You may also want to bring your own stethoscope, scissors and formulary, but make sure they are clearly marked as yours as they have a habit of going missing!Make sure also that the practice manager is clear that you are a self-employed locum, as it has been known for practices to have paid such individuals under PAYE, despite invoices, even in limited company situations.
www.locumsupport.co.uk – a very in depth veterinary locum guide created by a veterinary locum
www.agibsontaxation.co.uk – a firm specialising in tax and accountancy for locum vets
Some veterinary locum agencies (there are many more but just for starters!):
This article is intended as a guide only and was provided by Lucy Chadwick a VetGrad member who works as a locum. The article was kindly sponsored by A Gibson Taxation Services Tel: 01494 893430