From domestic pets to zoo animals, the opportunities and variety involved in working as a vet are endless. The versatility of this sector sees many veterinary professionals not only working in permanent positions but also as locums filling in for absent employees or providing additional manpower in areas where it is needed most.
The last 50 years have seen two major outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in the UK. At the peak of Britain’s 2001 epidemic, 10,000 workers both from the UK and abroad were employed to fight the virus. With emerging animal diseases being reported across the globe from swine flu to influenza, when the next outbreak occurs we will once again look to veterinary professionals to keep our animals safe.
This easy to read guide gives you a comprehensive breakdown of the advantages of becoming a locum vet and provides advice on finding work, opportunities overseas and tips on starting out as a locum.
Finding work as a locum vet
To find work as a locum vet, your first point of call may be to contact some recruitment agencies that specialise in placing veterinary surgeons in locum positions. Some specialist recruitment agencies that operate in the UK are listed below.
- Carlton Professional – A specialist recruitment agency that places veterinary professionals in permanent and locum positions throughout the UK and internationally.
- Gardner Llewelyn – Recruiting for permanent and locum vacancies solely in the veterinary sector, Gardner Llewelyn have over ten years of experience working in this industry.
- Recruit4vets – Working solely in the veterinary sector, Recruit4vets place locum and permanent veterinary surgeons and nurses in positions across the UK.
- Synergy Vets – A UK based agency that recruit veterinary professionals for locum and permanent roles.
Registering on the Locum Register via the Vet Surgeon website could be a method of securing locum work. This register is an online platform where locums can register their services and potential employers can contact the locum worker directly.
Another way to find work as a locum vet is through social media. Facebook pages such as veterinary locums without the agency fees provide another place for locum vets to advertise their services through posts which may include experience, qualifications and the area that they can cover. Employers can then look to see if there is anyone with a skill set to match their requirements or post details of a role they have available.
Opportunities for locum vets overseas
If you hold a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) approved UK veterinary degree you should be able to practice in most EU countries and further afield locations like Australia and New Zealand, although you may need to register with the relevant authority in the country you want to work in.
Veterinarians appear on the skilled occupation list (SOL) for both Australia and New Zealand. The SOL details the skills that are in demand in that country and if you have experience in a position which is listed on the SOL you may be eligible for a skilled working visa.
To find locum work overseas you may want to consider registering with a recruitment agency that operates in that country and specialises in the veterinary industry, some examples of which are listed below.
- Vetlink Employment Service – This recruitment agency is based in Australia, but they also recruit for positions in other countries including New Zealand, Britain, Ireland and Canada.
- Kookaburra Veterinary Employment – Based in New South Wales, Australia, this specialist veterinary recruitment agency places skilled professionals in positions throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the UK and Ireland.
Another option when looking for locum employment overseas is to contact an organisation that provides veterinary services on a large scale. Greencross Vets are a leading veterinary group in Australia with practices in four different states. They have positions available for both permanent and locum vets, which are advertised on their website.
Advantages of working as a locum vet
Working as a locum vet or veterinary surgeon comes with a whole host of advantages, some of which are listed below.
- Greater rates of pay -Vets and veterinary surgeons who work as permanent employees typically earn on average £34,000 annually (2015), but locum vets can command higher rates of pay and will typically earn an average of £220 to £240 per day. The fact that locum workers do not receive the same benefits as permanent employees, such as sick pay, holiday allowance and pension contributions gives locum workers greater scope to negotiate their daily rate. The amount that you get paid will naturally be subject to tax and national insurance contributions, so for a clear idea of the amount that you could take home as a locum vet you may find our take-home pay calculator useful.
- Flexible working hours – As a locum vet you will have no fixed hours and so you only need to accept the assignments that suit you. This makes locum working a popular choice for parents and those with personal commitments, as they can adjust their working hours to fit around their personal life. In fact, in SJD’s latest contractor attitude survey, 88% of respondents enjoy contracting to the extent that they would class themselves as committed contractors.
- Demand for veterinary skills – With 46% of UK households owning at least one pet (2014) there seems to be no shortage of work for veterinary professionals in the domestic sector. In addition, a shocking 2015 statement made by The Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, reported that illegal animal fighting has increased by a third over the past five years. This distressing statistic is another indicator that the services of veterinary surgeons are vitally needed to care for injured and distressed animals.
- Enhance your CV –Working as a locum vet allows you to build up your experience as you complete different assignments in various locations. For example, one day you could be working at your local veterinary surgery dealing with small domestic animals, and then your next placement could be treating horses at a riding stable. Working in a range of positions and dealing with varying animals and cases will enable you to advance your skill set quickly.
- Be your own boss – Through working on a locum basis you are your own boss. This means you have the freedom to only accept the assignments that interest you, take holidays when you wish, and gives you the satisfaction of being in control of your work.
- Viewed as a veterinary expert – Locum workers are sometimes brought into overstretched or struggling practices to complete a project or implement change. As a locum, you are brought into roles as an expert in your field, with the skills and experience to drive improvements. Therefore your colleagues will treat you with respect without feeling threatened because you are only there for a fixed term.
To find out more of the advantages of working as a locum vet, why not visit our benefits of contracting page.
Do I need professional indemnity insurance?
Depending on the placement, some veterinary practices will provide insurance cover whilst you are working on an assignment for them. However, you could still be liable if a claim is made against you once you have finished working for that employer, and so it is recommended that you take out your own professional indemnity insurance cover. For more information please visit our insurance for contractors page.
How should I operate as a locum vet?
Locum vets along with other contractors need to decide on a way to operate to ensure that they are paying tax and national insurance correctly. As a locum vet, the two most common ways to work are through an umbrella company or by forming your own limited company. Both options come with advantages and disadvantages, and the best route for you will depend on your personal circumstances and your reasons for working on a locum basis.
Umbrella company contractors are essentially employed by their umbrella company. The umbrella company will retrieve the locum’s earnings from their clients and pay them on having first deducted tax, national insurance and their umbrella company fee. Working through an umbrella company is generally seen to be the easiest way to operate because only timesheets and expense details need to be provided and then the locum can sit back and just wait to be paid. The major drawback of operating in this way is that it is an expensive way to operate, umbrella company contractors are subject to full PAYE tax and national insurance in the same way that a full-time employee would be. Another negative aspect of working through an umbrella company is that control is handed over to the umbrella company, which is probably not how many locums imagined being their own boss would be.
If you decide to work as a director of your own limited company, the main advantage is that it is widely considered to be the most tax efficient way to operate because it allows greater opportunities for tax planning. Working in this way means that you will typically take home 75-80% of your contract rate as opposed to 60-65% through an umbrella company. Limited company ownership also gives you complete control of your finances and there will not be a third party collecting your money for you. Working through a limited company is most suitable for those who are planning on working on a contract or locum basis for a substantial length of time (usually three months or more) and who are earning over £25,000 annually, as they will benefit most from working tax efficiently.
If you would like a more detailed comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of both options to take a look at our limited company vs umbrella company guide.
How do I form a limited company?
Forming a limited company is a surprisingly straightforward process which is usually completed in three to four working hours. If you would like to form your company you will first need to check that your desired company name is available. Once you have formed your limited company we will set up your business bank account, register your company for VAT/PAYE and advise you on how best to structure your company’s shares. If you would like to find out more about our limited company formation service please click here.
Do I need to appoint an accountant?
If you decide to work through a limited company you may want to consider appointing an accountant to help you with your finances. This may seem an expensive option, but the cost of hiring an accountant is often cheaper than umbrella company fees and could save you money in the long run. An accountant will guide you through the process of forming a limited company, assist you with your yearend accounts and provide ongoing tax and financial support. To find out more about how an accountant could help you, visit or do I need an accountant page.