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Government perform double U-turn on IR35

Locum pharmacists were briefly hopeful that issues arising from IR35 may have been overcome but instead they continue to face certain barriers created by some employers.

Tue 1st November 2022 The PDA

Many locum members had hoped that the Truss government reversal of the IR35 tax regulations could help bring an end to difficulties they face with obtaining shifts.  However, this policy was part of the infamous Kwasi Kwarteng “mini-budget” and subsequent Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, quickly performed a U-turn on the U-turn, taking the situation back to where it was previously.

Extra barriers for locums who form limited companies

Following the introduction of IR35, some locums who are registered as limited companies have found that they are now unable to be engaged by certain pharmacy businesses.  This could have a direct impact on the likelihood of a pharmacy temporarily closing and thus deny patients access to their medicines.

One locum member told the PDA:  “Having worked for one of the largest multiples for 4+ years, although never as a locum, I am well positioned to help their business.  However, as locums and others will know, “venloc pharmacy businesses” refuse to work with locums who have chosen to set themselves up as a limited company.

Although claimed to function as a mechanism to prevent money-laundering, I believe it is an attempt to reduce their potential tax liability under IR35. As the decision not to engage Ltd locums is not shared by other contractors, I feel this policy is purely in their own self-interest.

As I have observed over the past few months in my area, some venloc pharmacies would apparently rather choose to close a pharmacy than engage a Ltd locum. Clearly this policy restricts patient access to care and prevents the pharmacy from fulfilling their contractual obligations to the NHS. The excuse often offered to patients and other HCPs is ‘a lack of pharmacists’ but with the number of pharmacists on the register being at an all-time high, this is not the case. By alienating a significant proportion of the locum workforce and precipitating unnecessary closures, pharmacy businesses are making a very uncomfortable bed for their patients to lie in. 

In more isolated and remote areas, it is not uncommon for pharmacies to deliberately operate without a base pharmacist and instead rely on the support of locums (and reliefs, etc). When working in these areas, locums will often take block bookings and stay in temporary accommodation after traveling many miles from their home. As this style of locum activity lends well to those established as limited companies, it is fair to assume that this policy may disproportionately affect the communities in which access to pharmacy and other health care is already limited.  

With patient centred care being the mantra of pharmacy, I ask if the companies following this policy able to explain how this improves outcomes for patients and helps support the drive of the NHS to get patients into pharmacies?


The PDA believe that employers, especially those who claim they cannot find pharmacists willing to work for them, need to find ways to engage those who are trading as a limited company, rather than have temporary closures of their pharmacies.


Act now


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