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Could IR35 be good for pharmacist locums?

I have to say I’m getting a bit concerned about the lack of discussion around pharmacist locums and IR35.

From the 6th of April, the choice about whether you are working inside or outside IR35 no longer lies with the pharmacist locum trading as a limited company, but with the end-user, i.e. the pharmacy contractor. This will fundamentally change the way locum pharmacists work and trade, so you must understand the extension of IR35 into private companies -similar rules have applied in the NHS since April 2017.

You can access the tool for checking employment status by clicking here.

I think the expectation was that the extension of IR35 into the private sector wouldn’t happen, but all indications are that it will. The new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has suggested a gently, gently approach, but in my experience, HMRC will see this opportunity to gather more tax money and quickly.

Summary of what’s happening with IR35 from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation


The Government is extending the off-payroll rules, which have applied in the public sector since April 2017, into the private sector. The new rules will apply to work done by contractors working through intermediaries such as personal service companies. Importantly, the tests for IR35 status is not changing, but the responsibilities for making the status decision and related deductions are.


The new rules will apply to all payments made to personal service companies on or after 6th April 2021.

What’s the difference?

From 6th April 2021, the client, and not the contractor, will be responsible for assessing IR35 status. For inside IR35 assignments, the fee-payer will have to make tax and national insurance deductions before paying the personal service company.

My advice for all locums is to complete the online test via the link above then talk to your accountant. This is not the time to stick your head in the sand because not spending time to understand your personal position regarding IR35 could leave you with a huge tax bill.

Following the budget on 3rd March 2021, it is clear that IR35 will come into effect on 6th April 2021. The PDA has published a really helpful, considered article on the IR35 issue, which can be found here.

The NPA has also published guidance that is more geared to pharmacy owners and operators but it’s useful to understand the challenges that IR35 brings for pharmacies too. You can access this article here.

What now?

It’s really important that you take the time to understand your obligations and risks. You need to remember that you need to consider each arrangement you have with pharmacies individually.  After consideration of the increased complexity, it may be that you decide that locuming is no longer the right choice for you.

The irony is that the way locum pharmacists have worked and been booked has always been an anomaly when you compare it to other healthcare professions. The way that multiples have classically covered vacancies and holiday cover has never really made sense to me.

Why would you book locums by the day and not on longer-term, temporary contracts?

After all,  the pharmacy gets the consistent cover and the pharmacist can earn a premium for this consistency and earn holiday pay too? It may be that IR35 is the catalyst for change that benefits locum pharmacists in the long run.

Shaun Hockey is the Managing Director of Medacy Healthcare Support Solutions.

Please note that this article is not advice. You should seek advice from registered tax professionals or accountants who are qualified to give such advice.

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