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A guide to retaining legal locums in the public sector

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by Chelsey Newsom | 15 April 2019

Do you struggle to retain legal locums in your business? Are you worried that some of your legal locums might not stay long enough to complete key projects? You are not alone, many of our clients feel the same. In this blog, Manager Chelsey Newsom gives her advice on how you can retain legal locums to ensure productivity is not lost and key projects are completed on time.

Following on from my colleague Laura Hayward’s blog on securing a legal locum at interview, I wanted to follow it up with a blog that explains how you can retain your legal locum. The legal locum jobs market is more buoyant than ever and with the public sector locum market becoming increasingly competitive it is more important than ever to consider how you can retain your legal locums. If companies do not consider this, they are at risk of losing out, and legal locums may decide to leave before an assignment is complete if they receive a better offer elsewhere.  

Generally, legal locums are registered with more than one recruitment agency and even though they have secured a role, they can often receive calls from various agencies with available roles. Your legal locum may not be actively seeking a new position but an opportunity may arise that pays more money, be closer to home or offer more flexibility, that could tempt them away from your organisation. 

Here are my top tips that may help you retain your legal locums;

Asking for feedback and providing feedback to your legal locums is essential

Legal locums are expected to come in and hit the ground running, however, like all new starters in an organisation they like to know if they are performing well. It is therefore important to give praise where praise is due. I therefore feel it is important to schedule in a one-to-one with your legal locums after the first couple of weeks to let them know how they are doing.

This may sound simple but in some organisations legal locums rarely receive feedback from their line managers, and from speaking with my candidates many of them want to receive it. Legal locums should be treated as new members of staff, and as with any new staff member they may feel a little overwhelmed by the work or their responsibilities. Employers should be proactive and ask legal locums how they are finding the role, and find out if there is anything else they can be doing to support them. Putting some time in the diary, and speaking to your legal locums regularly also gives you a chance to review what they are doing and enables you to rectify any concerns they may be having, whilst ensuring the work they are doing is correct.

Be honest and up front about your flexibility and opportunities to work from home

Everybody needs a settling in period before they are able to work from home and there is an element of trust which needs to be built up before this can happen. It is therefore important to be clear with your legal locums and the agency on how flexible you can be, and what opportunities there may be to work from home after an initial induction period.

As more-and-more local authorities are set up for remote working, they are becoming more flexible with their working arrangements. Make sure that you are being competitive in the market by being as flexible as you can be, especially for those authorities that are situated in more remote areas. Make sure that you are being fair with your legal locums and offer similar flexibility that you offer to your permanent members of staff. Be sure to review flexible working with candidates as situations can change.

Get timesheets for your legal locums signed off and completed on time

If you want to retain your legal locum it is important to be aware of their timesheet authorisation deadline to ensure they are paid on time. This can vary depending on how the candidate gets paid and also can vary agency to agency. Candidates get paid on a weekly basis so they rely on their payments coming through each week.

This is an issue we regularly face with our candidates, and not being paid can be very frustrating when they are relying on a weekly salary. I appreciate that sometimes employers have meetings or need to be out of the office, so it may be worth setting up multiple authorisers to ensure that timesheets are authorised within the deadline. If you are unable to do this, please make sure to let your legal locum know in enough time ahead of the deadline so that they can inform their agency.

Be as up-front as possible with your legal locum about rates and any possible extensions

We have legal locums working in the public sector for a significant amount of time in one organisation and we always want to ensure that we can keep the continuity of assignments for as long as possible for both the candidates and the clients. It is therefore important to be transparent with the legal locums in your organisation about rates and the length of the assignment they are working on. Generally, public sector locum assignments tend to run for 3 months at a time due to budgets, but some do get extended for much longer.

Legal locums want to know their assignments are likely to be extended as early as possible. You may run the risk of losing a locum if you do not communicate what is happening with their assignment as early as possible. Remember to keep your legal locum as much in the loop as you can!

Hourly rates are constantly being pushed, especially since the IR35 changes that were introduced in 2017. Locum rates can also increase significantly depending on the area of law and the demand within the market. It is therefore important to continually review the rates you are offering to ensure you are paying enough. For example, if a locum has been working in an assignment for more than 12 months, they may need a rate review. Their role could have changed significantly or the cost of living may have increased in line with inflation, so make sure that you consider this throughout an assignment.

Finally, if your candidate gets offered another role elsewhere, do not be afraid to sit down and discuss with them and see if you can counter offer them. It may save you a significant amount of time to outline the benefits of staying with your organisation, rather than looking for a new locum to fill their place.

We have over 15 years’ worth of experience placing legal locum candidates into public sector organisations, so if you are struggling to fill gaps in your team, we could help. If you want to discuss your requirements, please feel free to get in touch with me directly, or a member of the legal recruitment team in your area.

Alternatively, you can find more useful tips on securing your legal locum on the insights section of our website.