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Locums – to be, or not to be self-employed

The life of a Locum appeals to many – the freedom to work anywhere, when you choose, experience a variety of environments and working practice; as well as the increased rate of pay.

But does Locum status mean claiming self-employed status?

For tax classification purposes, in the Inland Revenue’s eyes in order to be classified as self-employed a person must use their own equipment (including drugs), dictate when they work and name their own charge rate. However, typically vet practices expect Locums to use practice equipment, use the drugs on the designated list, work predetermined hours and for a nominated rate of pay.

There is also the question of ensuring that the locum is paying the correct amount of tax as under the new rules implemented by the Inland Revenue in April the employer will now be liable for any unpaid tax on behalf of the locum. The tax implications for allowing self-employed staff can be daunting for some practices who will therefore avoid using Locums whose status is self-employed.  CVS and other large corporate enterprises cannot use self-employed Locums and so opportunities for work outside of large corporate enterprises can be imited for those who remain self-employed.

Self-employment therefore has some very real drawbacks, so what are the options for veterinary professionals operating on a ‘freelance’ basis?

Using an Umbrella Company offers tax breaks for certain expenses incurred during the fulfilment of a role.  All it essentially means is the Umbrella Company performs a payroll service on behalf of the Locum, invoicing clients and dealing with tax issues.  For professionals considering Locum work as a long-term option, setting up a Limited Company provides significant tax benefits, although there are costs associated with this route.  Having a sympathetic accountant is definitely a plus for this option!

With both Umbrella Company and Limited Company routes Locums still need to actively job hunt from post to post.  Trying to do this whilst already working can be tricky.  Many Locums find themselves walking a tightrope between fulfilling the role they’re working in and searching for the next opportunity.

Working through a respected agency gives Locums the simplest option for finding work.  Whilst Locums are still required to have their own insurance, agency-sourced roles allow the professional to concentrate on the job in hand without having to deal with accounts-related paperwork, or worry about where the next role is coming from.  Agencies typically have built up a relationship with the practices they work for and with the Locums they place.  They are therefore in the ideal position to vouch for the professional and underpin the requirements of the practice.  This leaves the Locum free to concentrate on the thing that really matters to them: the job in hand – looking after the animals!

  • Pet Medic Recruitment has a variety of vacancies nationwide, including part time, full time, Locum and permanent roles.  For more information on any of our opportunities please get in touch with us at