How to Negotiate a Better Locum Rate in 2023
As doctors, we typically aren't the best when it comes to valuing the worth of our own work, especially in the earlier stages of our careers. This often leaves us earning less money than we could – or should – be earning.
If you're a locum doctor, it's possible you could be working to a lower rate than you deserve. If there's a chance you’re being paid unfairly, it’s important to do a bit of research and bring it to the attention of your locum agent or the Trust. Being able to negotiate a higher rate is an important skill to have, especially for locums.
In this article, we've provided some advice for negotiating a better locum rate, to help you maximise the amount your can earn.
👊 How to Recognise Your Own Worth
📞 First, speak to your colleagues and peers
It’s hard to quantify how much you should be earning in any given role when you don't have a point of reference. To find out, start by talking to colleagues and peers of similar grades, working in similar specialties, in the same Trust or region you’re working in.
Most locum doctors will be open and happy to talk about their earnings. It's important to compare with other doctors in similar situations, as this is a helpful way of determining the going rate and ensuring everyone gets paid fairly.
🌟 Use the resources available
To help you understand what rates you should expect as a locum doctor, we’ve created the Locum Doctor Salary Calculator. This handy tool compares the hourly rates of over 40,000 real individual locum roles which have been offered to doctors on Messly since January 2021.
You can use this salary calculator to answer questions like:
👉 How much can I expect to earn per hour, based on my grade, specialty, and region?
👉 Can I increase my hourly rate by changing the specialty or region I work in?
👉 What will I make each month if I work part-time or full time?
👉 How would this compare to my training or fellowship salary?
For further insight into this topic, read our related article, Locum Rates: What Can I Expect?
🤝 How to Negotiate for Better Rates
Of course, negotiating with an employer is a bit of a daunting prospect. Most people find this difficult, not just doctors, so you're not alone.
Before you approach this, you should use your research to decide on a range of rates you can realistically achieve. Have your ideal rate in mind, but also set yourself a minimum acceptable rate so you'll be able to walk away from an opportunity if they aren't willing to meet your expectations.
📝 Negotiating through an agency
One of the main advantages of working with an agency to find locum work is that they'll negotiate with the Trust on your behalf.
Tell your recruiter the rate you’d like to aim for and they’ll let you know if it’s achievable or not. Then they’ll go and negotiate with the Trust to get you the best possible rate.
They’ll use the key points from your CV as their ‘pitch’ to each Trust, so make sure you’ve followed the advice provided in our guide to writing an outstanding medical CV here.
If the agency can’t get a satisfactory rate for you, stay strong. In that case, the recruiter is there to begin looking for other jobs that are more likely to pay you a better rate.
🏥 Negotiating with a Trust
if you’re applying for roles directly through an internal staff bank, you’ll have to do the negotiating yourself.
In some situations, Trusts will have a fixed rate that they’re usually unable to go above. However, if they're desperate to fill a shift then they may be authorised to pay more than their standard rate.
With that in mind, it’s always worth trying to find out how much pressure they’re under to cover the shifts. To do this, speak to people that are working there before you start negotiating to get a feel for the situation.
Once you have an idea of how much you can ask for, suggest a starting rate and explain why you think you deserve that. Prepare to argue your case, with points like your specific experience, your availability for all their open shifts (the more you can agree to, the better), and cite the current rates they’ve been paying other locums if you can.
You might end up going back and forth a little to come to an agreement, which is natural. Be confident in yourself, and make sure the final rate you land on meets the minimum amount you’ve set.
Remember, you can always renegotiate as well. If you feel you agreed a rate that is too low, or that you’ve gained experience since you started working there and are now qualified for more senior roles, then take action to make sure you’re being compensated fairly.
While negotiating is never easy, it's important to be able to earn a rate that reflects what your experience, time, and effort are worth.
📚 Further Reading and Helpful Resources
If you’d like to learn more about getting more value from your time locuming, you may find the following articles useful:
👉 Finding Work as a Locum Doctor: Bank and Agency: A breakdown of how each works, and their pros and cons, covering registration, pay, and access to shifts.
👉 Managing Your Finances as a Locum Doctor: An overview of the key financial issues to consider as a locum, including tax codes, your NHS pension, and getting tax rebates, with specialist advice from our friends at Medics' Money.
👉 Tips to Increase Your Locum Pay: Our top tips for maximising your earning potential as a locum doctor.
👉 Locum Doctor Hub: Our comprehensive resource library features an extensive range of articles and guides, covering everything you need to know about locuming.
👉 Decoding Your Locum Payslip: Confused about your first payslip as a Locum Doctor? We’ll take you through the basics so that you can understand and identify any issues affecting your pay.
👉 The Locum Toolkit: This is your free one-stop-shop for all the apps, services and resources to help make your life as a Locum Doctor a lot easier.
🎯 Looking for Locum Work? Check Out Messly’s Locum Service
On top of providing helpful tools and resources, Messly is a faster, simpler, and more transparent way to find locum work.
We give you access to locum opportunities from all the best agencies, managed through our easy-to-use app. Doctors using Messly get better rates, less travel, and their pick of the very best jobs.
We’ve been trusted by over 6,000 doctors in the last year to find locum work, and are rated 4.8* by doctors on TrustPilot.
It works for doctors of all grades, across the whole of the UK, for work in the NHS and private sectors.
Find locum work on your terms
The best locum agencies together in one place, competing to find you the best locum shifts. Managed for free through your Messly account.