Locum Contracts and Agreements for Doctors and Dentists – what should they contain?

Table of contents

    In our first article for Locums, we looked at the crucial element of employment ‘status’ – how you know what status you have, and what options you have for running your Locum business.

    Here we look at the next crucial issue – to be a self-employed Locum, you need a contract or agreement in place with the employer you’ll do the work for.

    It’s important to have this written Locum Contract/Agreement/Terms of Engagement in place before you start work for a variety of reasons:

    • To formalise the agreement in writing to avoid any problems or ambiguity (but the agreement must reflect the reality of the working relationship you actually have – see our ‘status’ article)
    • It’s difficult for your professional body or any other advisor to advise you on your status/employment rights without one
    • To ensure the end-user of your services knows what status you have and agrees to this
    • To prove your status and tax liability to HMRC.

    What should go in your contract?

    The minimum a Locum contract should contain is:

    • Dates of booking
    • Duration of booking
    • Location
    • Hours of work/Length of session/Length of appointments/on-call hours required, and start and finish times
    • Hourly rate/fees per session/extended hours rate/fees for on-call (fees can either be based on a time-basis; number of hours worked, or on a workload-basis; fee for a set number of appointments or visits)
    • A substitution clause (another Locum can be used – this is important to prove your self-employed status)
    • Travel/mileage rates/other expenses that will be paid
    • Notice period to be given/received to terminate the agreement
    • A clause stating that the agreement can be terminated if its terms are breached by either party, or can be terminated by mutual agreement
    • When you expect payment (if payments are received late for work done, a Locum has a right to charge interest under late payment legislation)
    • A description of services you will provide – a definition of your core work, responsibilities and any additional or enhanced services you’ll provide. This ensures you’re working within the range of your experience and relevant members of staff know your agreed workload
    • That the Locum is undertaking the work in a self-employed capacity and undertakes to meet their own NICs, income and other taxes arising from the income
    • The responsibilities of the employer should also be clarified in terms of what basic facilities will be provided to the Locum– information on computer usage; induction information; pensions forms if appropriate; supplying appropriate equipment; prompt notification of complaints; notice period for cancellation of services; attendance at training/meetings; provision of medical/dentistry indemnity for the locum
    • An outline of the fee that Locum Dentists would pay the dental practice they are working at, for using their premises and facilities
    • Responsibilities of the Locum should include providing original evidence of the following: inclusion on a medical/dental performers list; medical/dentistry indemnity; GMC/GDC registration; CRB check.

    You may encounter a situation in which an employer doesn’t believe the work you deliver under a contract is to the standard they expect. Requirements for services to be of the highest quality may be specified in the contract or implied under statute or common law. But what amounts to ‘satisfactory’ or ‘good’ quality can be open to dispute, unless the agreement between the parties sets out in detail the quality requirements you must meet.

    If you are a member of the British Medical Association (BMA) or British Dental Association (BDA) you can get your contract checked free of charge to ensure you are getting your correct benefits and entitlements. The BMA and BDA also have model terms and conditions templates for locums.

    Fed up of the nine to five? Find out more about working for yourself.


    If your Locum booking is cancelled before or on the day of booking, without the agreed notice, what can you do?

    • Your contract should ideally contain a cancellation fee to be paid in these circumstances
    • If there’s no cancellation fee, you should be entitled to claim your fee for the day unless you’ve agreed in writing not to do so; especially if you’ve not been able to ‘mitigate’ your losses by getting other work

    Marketing yourself

    If you’re looking for tips on how to market yourself as a locum doctor, you can check out our article, “How to market yourself as a locum doctor” for more information.

    If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to us at The HR Kiosk (click here) – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – you can hire us for as much time as you need.

    Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.