Employing a Locum

17 May 2023

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The majority of the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) 5,000 or so members are their council’s only employee. Add those members who have only one or two other members of staff and that majority becomes the equivalent of a landslide. This emphasises the extent of the local council sector’s dependence on the clerk and the potential impact if they resign, retire or have an extended period of absence. Finding cover can be difficult and costly. Using a locum clerk can be a solution but finding one with the right skills and experience, who would be available at short notice, can be more difficult than you might think.

Having a plan to meet the risk to the council of a clerk’s unplanned absence is an obvious mitigation that is often missed. Knowing where you might find a Locum is a start but equally important is identifying the process to engage them and the access to funds to pay for their services. Some clerks have included this in their council risk analysis and developed some mitigation in the form of an earmarked budget and a plan to show how they would find a locum.
One important factor to bear in mind is that the proper officer of a local council should have tax and NI deducted at source if the HMRC guidelines are to be followed. You might be able to employ a sub-contractor for a distinct project, but this option is not open to you to cover for the clerk.

LCC can provide a locum who would be employed by SLCC and have tax and NI deducted at source through our payroll. The council would be invoiced for the hours worked meaning they do not have to set the locum up on their payroll. The costs to the council of employing a locum would depend on the role and availability of potential locums. Typically, you should allow for at least 30-50% more than the pay rate of the current clerk in your earmarked reserve for around 3 months. LCC will charge an hourly rate made up of the locum fee and the additional costs of Employers NI, annual leave, pension contributions, the costs of processing the payroll and a handling fee to cover our administrative costs.

To source a locum, contact the LCC team, we will get in touch with you and gather information such as how many hours per week would be required, any commitments for meetings and the likely duration (if this is known). We would also ask that you consider how much time would be needed on-site versus working remotely, and if you need the locum to manage the finances, details on which software package is being used. Once we have the details needed, we circulate the opportunity to our locum pool and if a match is found we are then able to agree hourly rates and a start date.

LCC has a pool of locums around the country, however, we are always looking for more to ensure that we can help out as many councils as possible. Ideally you will have gained the Certificate in Local Council Administration (CiLCA) and have a few years’ experience of the role. Contact us if you are interested in registering or would like to discuss this in more detail, we would be delighted to let you know more about the opportunities and how it works.

Finally, a word on the General Power of Competence and what to do if the clerk leaves the post unexpectedly. If your council has already adopted the Power, you can continue to carry out activities which started whilst the council complied with the criteria. Don’t panic about the council having to stop these if it temporarily ceases to meet the qualified clerk criterion. Provided the council resolves to re-adopt when a qualified clerk is in place (and meets the other criteria), there is no barrier to normal council business continuing despite it being unable to use the Power on new activities.