Locum Passport

Are all agencies the same? What to consider when joining an agency.

Are all agencies the same? What to consider when joining an agency.

No. Short and sweet. Although the answer is as simple as that, you’re probably looking for some more information to guide you on the right agencies to join.

There are many factors to consider when joining an agency, an agency isn’t simply good or bad based on one factor alone but it’s the level of service they offer you in a variety of fields that contribute to an agency being ‘good’ or bad. With this said, the most obvious factors you need to consider are:

Type and location of roles
Pay rates
Payment process
Customer service

The type and location roles is key, if they don’t service your profession or your location, there’s little need to join them. If you’re looking for work within the NHS, the agency you want to join will likely need to a ‘framework approved’ agency meaning they are able to contract workers for roles on behalf of the NHS. To have the best selection of roles you’ll want to connected to agencies that are part of:

the London Procurement Partnership (LPP)
NHS Collaborative Procurement Partnership (CPP)
Health Trust Europe (HTE)

Agencies may be connected to any one or multiple of these but before you go out looking for one agency to cover them all, there are advantages to joining more than one agency servicing each framework. The most obvious advantage - competition. Agencies are in competition with each other to fill these roles and as such are in competition to secure your services. This means agencies are often willing to go that extra mile to make sure they are the ones you choose. 
Being connected to more than one agency means that you have options should one of them turn out to be less than ideal and also gives you a benchmark on what you can expect in terms of rates, roles and payments.

Pay rates.

Needless to say pay rates are the driving force behind most decisions to join an agency. You've probably seen a post advertised with a good rate and joined the agency offering it to explore the opportunity further. Although pay caps have done away with some of the inconsistencies between agencies and their rates, rates can still vary wildly - especially if you are a specialised healthcare professional or you are looking to work in a community pharmacy of GP surgery. 
Your pay rate will also be affected by IR35 meaning that the rate advertised is almost certainly not the rate you will receive into your bank account. For more detail on how this will affect you individually, we’ve teamed up with two great companies: RA accountants and i4 to provide you with an overview of what will be best for your situation. You’ve probably come across the terms umbrella company and Ltd company and you can discuss which one is best for you by utilising the Locum Passport network.

Payment process 

Connected to above, your pay rate doesn't matter if you aren't paid properly. Agencies offer wildly differing payment terms. Some will request your timesheet weekly and pay you a few working days later while others have far longer processes. A few important questions to ask:
What is the payment process?

How long does it take?
What steps are you taking to clarify my IR35 position
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Also ask members of Facebook groups (listed below) about how reliable the service is. You'll get straight answers from other locums. The last question listed won't immediately make a difference to your pay but a good agency will be aware of the implications of IR35 and be actively working to clarify your tax position. 

Customer service

Perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of an agency is its customer service. You want your agency to be like British airways, going that extra step to help and less like Ryanair who provide you with a are bones service. It doesn't cost you anything extra so why not treat yourself to a good experience. 

You’ll have plenty of agencies that meet your exacting requirements and you’ll want all of their opportunities which will take you some time. We’ve got a great post on organising your documents to make this process as easy as possible. For a more convenient, secure and enjoyable experience, we’ve got you covered. Check out the Locum Passport today.

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