Last year, I left a Social Services job (within an unnamed Adult Care service) due to the lack of support, induction, training and supervision I received – it was particularly pertinent in this case as I haven’t worked in many social services roles and the last time I was appointed in one was over 10 years ago (I had an 8 year break from OT to pursue another career), so I not only needed a refresher on the skills I’d used in the past but I also needed full training to acquire the new skills I was required to use for the post in question. As well as discussing all of this with my manager during the interview, I also made it quite clear to the agency that was handling the booking (not Cpl UK Health, I hasten to add), along with the high priority need for a Risk Assessment to be done – I was 11 weeks pregnant when I started the job.
Unfortunately, the Risk Assessment was never done, none of the training discussed at interview was provided, I didn’t receive a proper induction and I was never offered supervision, yet I was continually asked to see clients that I wasn’t equipped to deal with and to work in situations that were potentially dangerous to both the clients, myself and my pregnancy!
I regularly reported the situation to the agency involved, along with the series of disturbing events that occurred whilst I was in the post but they did nothing to support me and would just say “I’m sure things will settle down soon” and so, after 6 weeks of trying to make it work, I decided to leave. It was an extremely stressful experience for many reasons, all of which were quite unnecessary... but it has made me realise just how important it is to be
represented by a good agency:
1) It’s essential to be fully informed of what will be expected of you in a post – you need to be able to weigh up whether you can do the job properly and whether the nature of the work will suit you. A good locum agency will pay attention to your skills and experience and listen to your needs, a bad one will give you (and the client) vague details in order to get you in the post, so make sure you ask lots of questions and get them answered before you agree to anything.
2) It’s essential for the client to be fully informed of your skills, experience and situation – they need to be able to weigh up if you’re the right candidate for the job and whether they can accommodate any needs you might have, such as pregnancy, childcare responsibilities, study days and holidays. A good locum agency will ask you questions about this (and it is also your responsibility to mention anything that you think could be important) and relay the information back to the client in order to ensure the stability of the booking. Perhaps I am now a little over cautious, but my advice would be to ask for written confirmation that anything of concern has been agreed.
3) As a temporary worker, you need to be supported by your locum agency in the unfortunate case of anything going wrong – as mentioned above, I now ask for written confirmation of anything that concerns me before I accept a post but a good locum agency will offer this without having to be asked... they will also ask for evidence of all your training, immunisations etc (if they don’t then big alarm bells should ring in your head!) and check in with you that everything is ok on a regular basis.
4) Being paid on time is important to everyone - a good agency will ensure that all the factors that need to be in place in order to facilitate this have been taken care of. In my last post, I wasn’t paid for a month because the agency hadn’t passed on all of my reference details – make sure you get confirmation that the client’s accounts department have everything they need to process your pay before you start a contract.
5) A manageable journey is also vital, particularly if the post is long-term – you need to consider the implications of distance to a job on both your time and expenditure to get there. A good locum agency will be honest with you about this and they should be quite happy to give you a postcode so that you can check the route out for yourself – be wary of locum agencies that say they can’t divulge this information as you could find yourself in a nightmare commute!
I’d never had any problems in a locum OT job before the experience mentioned above, so I always took it for granted that all locum recruitment agencies are much for muchness, that they all work to the same standards and therefore, it doesn’t matter who I work through – I just used to go with whichever locum agency had the job that suited me the most... and whoever would pay me the best rate!
BUT I’ve now learned that it really is worth staying loyal to a good locum agency once you find one there are obviously many other ways that locums could be affected by dealing with a bad locum agency but I’m hoping that by sharing my personal experience, you might benefit from the insight I’ve gained and be cautious if you’re considering ditching your trusted locum agency for the promise of a golden opportunity that seems too good to be true – it probably is!
Remember, there is far more value in a locum agency that looks after you long-term than a fleeting affair with a shiny new apple with a bad core and you shouldn't put up with any that aren't.
Paula - Occupational Therapist