Sunday, 4 May 2014

How to Locum as a Vet in London

On paper, an Australian Vet in London shouldn't have too much trouble getting work. You apply for a working Visa. You register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). You find a job.  However between each of these steps are thousands of other steps that need to be done before you get that paycheck. One should note that the English do beurocracy like no one else. They love paperwork and shuffling it about in a non-productive manner until your brain explodes. So nothing happens efficiently here. In fact, I've been in the country 8 months and I think I've only just managed to sort out all my bits and pieces.

So here's a summary of my experience and hopefully it helps to prevent any further Vet brains from exploding.

It took about 6 weeks to complete my registration, numerous emails and phone calls and a lot of confusion. They outline all the documents that you need here. Most of it is pretty straight forward. Print, fill out and email through your forms and documents. Await confirmation. Pay your registration fee. Agree on an appointment time for your interview to get 'sworn' in. 

The points of grievances for me were due to the need to bring your original Vet degree to your interview (which had to be sent from Australia for me) and the fact that they ask you for a 'letter of professional standing' which costs $50 to have done by the NSW Practitioners Board 

HOWEVER they actually do not accept this if you have removed yourself from the list for more than 3 months (which I did as I traveled for 6 months before arriving in UK). So don't bother. Instead what they actually ask for is a 'sworn declaration' which is like a affidavit which just says you are a legit person and you pay a local solicitor 5 pounds to sign and stamp it for you. 

Annoyingly, it was only after I put through all my documents INCLUDING my defunct letter of professional standing did they actually tell me it was defunct despite calling them to double check what I actually needed. Even more annoying, they don't have it anywhere on their website a copy of what you need to include in your sworn declaration so here is what I used and it was accepted.  So don't do what I did and get both after getting mixed messages from the RCVS, it's one or the other. 

Sworn Declaration

I, My name, of my address on the today's date state that:
a.    I graduated from my university, degree and date that I graduated;
b.    the reason why  I am not currently registered with a regulatory authority in Australia is because legit reason;
c.    I have not been found guilty of serious professional misconduct in the UK or elsewhere,
d.    I have not been convicted of any criminal offences in the UK or elsewhere.

I swear that the information I have provided is true and complete.


OK, you've that little piece of paper in your hand that says you can now work as a Vet. Before you start contacting people you have to decide how you want to get paid. If you're lazy or are going to be working for less than 12 months, you would probably want to use an umbrella company. Basically they 'employ' you and you don't really have to worry about doing too much paperwork. The downside is that you're probably going to make less money in the long term because they're going to take a much bigger cut from your pay. 

The other option for a locum is to set up a limited company in which you are the director of and you have to produce your invoices to send to your clients. This sounds like a ot more hassle but actually it's not that much more hassle and most people would do this if they were working for longer periods of time. 

I started out using an umbrella company (FPS - great experience) because I hadn't organised myself beforehand so I could start working straight away. They set it up so each week I would put in my expenses and they would pay me directly into my normal bank account. Easy. 

I then contacted an accountant (March Mutual - absolutely rubbish, had to change) who set up my limited company. You just need to come up with a company name where you appoint yourself as a director, pay yourself a wage and the rest of your income as 'dividends' from your company. Am I losing you? Don't worry. It's straightforward when you actually go through the process. 

Being a limited company means you have to have a business account, not just your own private Barclays bank account Well, with my first accountant they booked me in to see a 'business specialist' at HSBC which I had to wait 3 weeks for. This was overall a complete waste of time and I was rejected for the account in which my accoutant left me to fend for myself to find myself another bank who would give me a business account. Useless. So I left March Mutual and joined Paystream who sent me a whole bunch of forms which I promptly signed and after 4 weeks (I did say that nothing happens quickly here right?) I had myself a business account with a private bank - Cater Allen. You can't get paid til you have that account (unlike with the umbrella company which you can get paid straight away). 

I'm also VAT registered (kind of like GST). I'm not quite sure why, but I get 20% more for my services and I assume I get some of that at the end of the tax year. IR35 is a law which prevents people who would be technically be permanently employed from working under a limited company. There are a whole bunch of rules you have to follow to make sure you stay 'outside IR35' but basically you can't work at a place for too long or appear to be a member of their regular staff. I got my own work indemnity insurance because it helps keeps me outside IR35. Asleep yet? I know, it's tedious but all necessary.

All your travel and food expenses are tax deductible so it's pretty important to keep all your receipts and oyster card journey histories. Again, they love their paperwork.

I contacted about 5 different recruitment agencies and now primarily work with Syneryvets and Recruit4Vets. When you look online at what jobs they have, they're generally kind of crappy. Never in central London, after hours, weekend work, longer commitments. All the stuff you wanted to move away from. I first took on work that was really far out of London. I live in central London (zone 1), all these jobs were in zone 6-7. about 60-90 minutes commute time each way. Exhausting. When my first job got terminated early, even though it was quite rude of them, I was secretly thrilled I wouldn't have to commute that far again. Also I was underpaid. 

After speaking to other locums I realised I should be getting a better daily rate for a Vet that's 6 years out. Also that there is PLENTY of work. Don't settle for the shitty jobs unless you have to. Recruiters are generally quite slimy (though nice to your face) and will make up all sorts of reasons to get you to accept that underpaying, far away job that no one else wants. Just be firm with what you want. They're working for you.

I've also accepted a job that was closer to home which then suddenly had a 'change in venue' and suddenly it was much further out. Ummm, no. That's underhanded business there. I told them I won't accept it and stayed firm. The recruiter tried to pressure me into accepting it because it was still central enough and said that it would damage my relationship with that Vet chain if I got difficult about it. Well, I told him I thought it was unprofessional of THEM to try to completely change the work. They still gave me other work afterwards and I  now realise that recruiters are just full of BS. 

Nowadays, I'm getting jobs that are walkable from home, I'm getting paid what I deserve and the work has been steady. I'm not aiming to work ALL the time. Jobs can vary from one day cover to 2 months. I'd like the occasional week off and the more I'm working the more I could get as the places I've already have worked at will keep me in mind if they need more locum work done. I just started a job that was extended from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. Jobs also pop up last minute so it's worthwhile waiting for the good jobs than just accepting one that doesn't seem that great.

I've been working really hard here in the UK. Some of the places are pretty quiet and you're just sitting around but most of the places have enough work for two Vets and it's just you there from 9am to 7pm trying to get everything done. I've had days where I've had no time for lunch and am left shattered afterwards. I avoid those places afterwards. It's not worth the pain. Also night work and after hours work pays pitifully and I've outright refused to do it. Nurses are generally really good and can take blood etc. Just like anywhere, some clinics have better facilities than others though the one interesting point is that I've only seen digital x-ray in one clinic out of 12. Also, a lot more clients do have insurance here but not as many as I thought.  

Working life in Sydney was much more relaxed but breaking out of routine is still a good thing for me and I'm learning a lot from being at so many different clinics. How to be adaptable, working in different teams, how to work on my own and just generally building up my confidence as a Vet and as a person. The main thing I'm enjoying is the flexibility I have just to say 'I'm going to Paris for the week' and not having to beg someone to give me the time off for it. It may be worth the trouble after all.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Toni, thanks for all of this fabulous detailed info. Tu Sen and I will be embarking on our own European adventure next year, so I'll be referring back to this I'm sure...