How much should I charge as a veterinary locum?

Written by Harry Marshall Reading time: 7 mins

Many people ask us, ‘What should I be charging?’. Now, if you are here to find out what you should be charging as an individual, then you may be disappointed.

We will talk about some of the pay scales and the factors that should be considered when deciding what to charge, but for a conversation about individual figures, drop us an email at info@simplyvets.com for some personalised advice.

It’s a pretty good time to be a Locum right now. With the current state of veterinary recruitment and the national shortage of veterinary staff, locums are in incredibly high demand. This allows you to charge more for your services as practices become more desperate for cover – of course, you don’t want to take advantage and practices can only pay so much, but it’s a locum’s market right now.

The pay range for our locums starts at £300 per day and goes all the way up to £1,000 for specialist emergency OOHs work. Finding the figure between valuing your time and not overcharging can be a difficult balancing act so here are some of the factors that come into play:

  1. Skillset/Experience

  2. Location

  3. Accommodation and travel

  4. The nature of the work… are there antisocial hours?

  5. General costs 

Skillset/Experience

Experience isn’t everything, just because you are 30 years qualified, it doesn’t mean that you know everything. You also shouldn’t undervalue yourself just because you are recently qualified. Yes – typically there is a correlation between how long you have been practicing and the breadth and depth of your skillset, but that’s not the be-all and end-all. If you are a very clinically capable vet or nurse, then you should command a higher price than one operating at a lower level.

Location

DEMAND DEMAND DEMAND! You may think that a locum in London can charge twice what one in Newcastle charges right? Probably not. Locums are in SUCH high demand across the whole country, however, there are certainly some areas worse affected than others. The north of England and rural Scotland are especially desperate and this incredible demand for a locum dictates a good deal of what you can charge. Of course, you can’t charge £2000 a day just because you are the only vet or nurse for 100 miles, but it does have a massive impact.

Accommodation and travel

Accommodation

Now, if you’re working at a local practice then skip along, however, if you are in a different part of the country, you need to think about your living arrangements. These things are always up for discussion with the practice and you’ll typically get one of 4 responses:

  • There is accommodation on-site (some are better than others so always ask to see pictures first!).

  • There is accommodation down the road/nearest town etc. Typically these are B&Bs or Airbnbs that a practice has a relationship with. Used mostly for shorter-term contracts, normally a week or two.

  • The practice provides you with an allowance to find a place yourself. These allowances can cover anything from 10% to the total cost of your accommodation. Make sure you do your research before agreeing to anything with the practice – find a place first!

  • Some practices don’t offer accommodation or any allowances. In this case, we would recommend a slightly higher day rate to help cover the costs you will incur working away from home.

Travel

If you’re just commuting to and from the practice every day, then charging for travel really isn’t necessary. If you will be making house calls or farm visits with your vehicle, then you should think about charging mileage or at least baking that cost into your day rate. If you do charge, you NEED to record your mileage. In terms of what to charge, 45p per mile is considered standard. 

It’s so important that accommodation and travel are discussed well in advance. You don’t want to turn up and find that the arrangements aren’t fit for purpose. Make the practice aware that you need some form of accommodation and ask what they can offer. Most practices will cover accommodation costs but may ask you to lower your daily fee slightly. Enquire about any house calls or farm visits and what the procedure is. Communication is key. 

The Nature of The Work

Some people shy away from talking about if you should charge more at weekends, but they really shouldn’t. Weekend shifts are part of the Veterinary profession and there are a lot of locum shifts floating about on Saturday and Sunday. Are these considered anti-social hours? Well, that’s down to you. Of course, your clinical skills are no different on a Saturday to a Wednesday. As a locum, you can choose to work weekends (or not!) and therefore the ball is in your court. It is up to you, some people will increase their rate on a weekend if they don’t ‘need’ the work, others may decide that they can do with the money and charge a normal rate. Practices don’t HAVE to use you and if they aren’t happy paying an increased rate over weekends, they will be able to find someone else at a lower rate. 

General Costs/Things to Consider

VAT

There are 3 things you need to know about charging VAT:

  • It’s only pertinent for locums that are billing via a Limited Company

  • You NEED to be VAT registered to charge VAT

  • You HAVE to register if you have over £85,000 in taxable income per annum

The practice can claim the VAT back, so don’t think of it as adding an extra cost onto them. VAT is charged at 20%, so if you charge £350 a day then your invoice would be for £420 (120%). If you’re not sure about all of the above, either get in contact with your accountant or send us a message via our contact us page.

Insurance

If you’re starting to locum from a full-time role, you will be used to having your Personal Indemnity Insurance and RCVS fees paid for. As a locum, this isn’t the case. Whilst the most common provider of insurance is VDS, there are also others available – it should be a couple of hundred pounds. You can find a list of RCVS charges here. You will need to factor in these costs when thinking about what to charge. Granted, if you are working 280 days per year, these costs don’t amount to much as an average per day, but something to consider. 

Payment Vehicle

Depending on how you bill the practice, there will be changes to make in your thinking. If you bill via a Ltd. Company, then you need to factor into your costs an accountant, setup costs, companies house fees, etc. Again, these won’t break the bank but need to be factored in when working out what to charge. 

If you’re using an umbrella company, speak to them to see what you will be paid per day after deductions. Different umbrellas operate in different ways, so be sure to speak to yours about what to charge, what they would charge the practice, and what you will end up being paid, both as gross and net.

Do I charge hourly or daily?

Personal choice. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day if you end up charging the same overall rate when the pro-rata is calculated. If you are going to be doing varying shifts, hourly may be easier rather than having to work out what 9/10ths of your day rate is for a shorter day.

Conclusion

If you charge fairly, you will always get work – if you have an extortionate day rate, you’ll struggle. The profession is a small one, and reputations spread. Be sure to be personable, punctual, and do your best for every animal you come across and you will fly through locuming.

If you wanted to speak to one of our experts about what to charge, please get in touch here.

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