The pros and cons of locum working
Published on 10th November 2015
Fantastic rates of pay
Locum Psychological Therapists and Mental Health Professionals earn higher rates of pay than permanent members of staff. In fact, in some places, locums will earn almost double the hourly rate of permanent members of staff. This is for a number of reasons. Locum workers tend to work on shorter contracts with a shorter notice period on both the employer and employees side and the higher rates of pay reflect this. Locums are usually not entitled to holiday or sick pay and do not get benefits such as maternity leave or pensions. It is important to take those factors into consideration when making a decision about locum working but taking all that into consideration, locums usually end up with significantly higher pay rates than their permanent counterparts for doing the same role.
If you ask a locum Mental Health professional or Psychological Therapist why they are a locum, the majority will say that the flexibility of the work is the biggest draw. Locums tend to feel more in control of their working lives and careers as they choose the placement they want to work in. It also enables locums the opportunity to try a new area of work if they are interested in moving fields. Also many locums like the fact that they are not tied into a long-term contract and can move around roles more frequently gaining experience and skills. Some locums like the fact that short-term contracts enable them to travel or work on other projects or in other roles. Others prefer to work hard in a six month contract then have a long holiday at the end of the contract but the flexibility is a big attraction to locum working.
Gaining experience and skills
Many locum psychological therapists and mental health professionals go locum to increase their skill-set, work with a new client group or gain experience in a particular area and locum work enables them to do this. Locums also report that being a locum gives them the opportunity to try new things in a role which they perhaps would not be able to do as a permanent member of staff.
Locums in many different sectors often report enjoying their role because the nature of the temporary contract means that they don’t get drawn into office politics and bureaucracy that exists in so many working environments. In fact, many locums have the attitude that they will go into a placement, do their job well, put in a bit extra too, then walk away at the end of the day without worrying about the politics that are inevitable in most working environments. Taking the stress of the bureaucracy away is a big draw for locum workers.
Locum workers often report a better work/life balance. This tends to be because they are contracted to do a certain amount of hours and are only paid for those hours, and because they are a temporary member of staff, they can go in, do their job well and go home on time meaning they have an evening to themselves where they are not worrying about ‘the job’. Again, if a placement is stressful or not working out for the locum, they have the flexibility to look for a better suited placement giving their shorter notice period.
Keeping things interesting
Having the flexibility to move around different placements, work in different sectors and environments, experience different cultures and learn new systems means a locum rarely gets bored or stale in a placement. And if they do – they have the opportunity to look for another role that will challenge them once more. Also locum psychological therapists and mental health workers want to locum until they find the right job or organisation to work permanently in.
As locums gain quite a lot of experience in different systems, settings and organisations as well as having a vast experience of different cases, they can bring valuable experience to the workplace. For example, if a system isn’t working particularly well in one organisation, the locum is likely to have experienced different ways of doing that same job in other organisations meaning they can help streamline work systems and improve productivity.
There is obviously an element of risk involved with being a locum worker. While locums often report that they rarely experience gaps between placements especially if they are signed up with a good agency, there is the chance that you may have a period without work. Those who are risk averse may feel anxious with that pressure. It is always good to speak to your agency to see how much work there is around before taking the leap into locum work if you are unsure. For some the draw of not having to work five days or having a period without work is a bonus, particularly for those with a family or approaching retirement and wanting to reduce working hours.
Locums are better paid than permanent members of staff, however, locums are not usually entitled to sick pay or annual leave and do not receive benefits that permanent staff do such as maternity leave or pension contributions. It is worth weighing this up before taking a placement.
Training and supervision can vary from organisation to organisation. Many locums report good experiences from organisations who allow them to participate in the same training as permanent members of staff and also receive regular supervision. Other locums do not have such a good experience and have to arrange and pay for their own training for CPD. It is therefore worthwhile finding out what you are entitled to in an organisation prior to signing up and be aware that your CPD is your responsibility.
Locums report that often there is a high expectation on them to hit the ground running once they join an organisation. There is little room for ‘hand-holding’ which is why sometimes locum work suits those professionals with more experience under their belt.
You never know what sort of team you are going to walk into as a locum, they could be brilliant, they might not be. Now as a locum you can always leave with a short period of notice if you are not happy in a team but often you have to be a bit thick skinned and embed yourself into the team. In the same vein, if you have a wonderful team and you are only there as a locum for a short period, you have to learn to say goodbye to people you like. One thing locums report is that as they move around more regularly than permanent staff, they often get positive feedback along with cards and presents at the end of a placement which is positive affirmation of a job well done that often permanent staff do not receive.
As a locum, you may have to travel for the best opportunities depending on where you live geographically and the time for travel should always be taken into consideration when considering a placement.
There are both pros and cons to locum working and it almost always comes down to the individual, their outlook on life, personality and lifestyle and whether locum working is better suited to them.
If you want more information about locum working, contact a recruitment agency specialising in psychological therapy and mental health work and ask their advice or talk to other locums to give you a rounded view before you make your decision.
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