This query is coming up quite regularly at the moment, because so many firms are working on a remote basis still even after offices have opened and the opportunities for finding staff to assist are starting to become wider as firms become more accepting of the capabilities for working remotely.
Locums have been wary of pitching at lower levels but some firms seem to expect it.
Pre-March 2020 – Mistrust of Remote Workers
Before Covid-19 it was quite hard to get a lot of firms to accept locum or permanent staff who were able and willing to work remotely but not be based in the office. There seemed to be a general level of mistrust that the work would get done, or that the files worked on would remain secure when someone was based remotely. This has been particularly so for locums, mainly because if a locum is based remotely it is rare to meet them face to face at any time.
This trust can be earned with the use of references and in recent times we have got particularly cautious when it comes to introducing locums who do not have references or have not bothered sending them to us despite numerous requests (you know who you are!).
Post-March 2020 – Remote Working Expands
We have seen an explosion in the numbers of firms willing to accept remote working locums, mainly because they are all working remotely and realise that this is now the new norm for a lot of staff in a lot of firms.
The query that arises more often than not though is what rate should a locum be charging if they are working the majority of the time on a remote basis.
What Should the Discount be for Remote Working?
We think that locums need to consider discounting their rates by up to 25-30% if they were staying away from home to cover and around 10-15% if commuting from home.
Firstly, when a locum accepts an office based assignment, the hourly rate should be factoring in travel to and from the office. Most locum assignments are undertaken by professional locums who are prepared to stop over during the week in order to get the assignment and to drive a long way on the first and last days to and from their home.
In view of the fact that a typical Premier Inn or Travel Lodge is going to cost in the region of about £40-£60 a night, the cost of accommodation for the four nights is likely to be somewhere in the region of about £200-£250. Travel to and from the firm is going to cost in the region of about £30-£40 in petrol. There is also the travel to and from the hotel and the cost of food whilst there, which will probably add an additional £100 a week. So working on the basis of £200 for accommodation, £100 for food and costs, plus £35 for the petrol to and from the area, you are looking at a figure of somewhere around £350 on each assignment in costs if you stay over locally.
These figures do not of course include all the travel time costs you spend getting around.
£35 to £25
To put that into perspective on an hourly rate – if you are working at the current residential conveyancing locum average of £35 an hour then if you are doing a 35 hour week you will be earning £1,225. Once the costs have been taken off (assuming £350) you are looking at a profit for the week from your hourly labour of £875. If you put that into an hourly rate figure the cost is £25 an hour.
Same Profit (Possibly)
Therefore, when a locum is considering pitching for remote working, it is possible to compete at a substantially lower hourly rate and still get the same level of profit as if you were based at the office. Furthermore, you have increased capacity if anything else arises where you can take on a couple of things at once, because your seven hours a day working for a firm frees you up quite dramatically because there will be no commuting time there and back, and so your capacity to undertake work during that week can actually increase to 12 hours a day quite easily without needing to impact on anything else.
In a normal market the remote issue would probably not be so important, because there is normally not much competition for most locum roles other than residential conveyancing in easily accessible areas like Greater London.
High Competition Levels
In the current situation where there are large numbers of locums going after most assignments, and it is perfectly possible to get a good quality locum working for an hourly rate substantially lower than the market rate was last year, it is important to factor in costs when it comes to working remotely. It has opened up a wide range of opportunities for a lot of locums, because all of a sudden they do not need to plan travel to the furthest flung part of the UK in order to take an assignment, but at the same time locums need to be very conscious of the requirement to carefully consider the hourly rate.
We recommend all locums look at our hourly rate guidance sheets that are done on a monthly basis, because these very often give you an extremely good idea as to what your rate needs to be based at in order to be competitive. Whilst a lot of firms do go for quality and also based on recommendation (which is why references are so important), the sheer amount of quality that is available at the moment across the UK in terms of locum cover means that you cannot rely on your experience alone. You must also be competitive on your hourly rate, particularly when working remotely.