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My first experience of negotiating a higher locum rate

"I was just wondering if there is any flexibility in the hourly pay? As I was expecting a bit more"

As C+D examines how locums should negotiate the best rate possible, clinical editor Kristoffer Stewart remembers his first experience of asking for increased pay

After locuming as a newly qualified pharmacist in Northern Ireland, I had moved to Edinburgh to work and study. It wasn’t long before I was offered my first locum shift.

When I received the text, I was very keen to take the job. It wasn’t far from where I lived, and I knew the morning would be relatively easy – consisting of checking trays and dispensing methadone for a handful of patients.

However, I decided – for the first time – that I was going to ask for a higher rate. I had several reasons to justify this:

  • I knew the 'going rate' for a normal weekday shift in the area was a few quid higher than what I had been offered
  • The shift was only for half the day, so I was giving up a potential full day of work (or a lie in)
  • I would be working on the weekend – a Saturday
  • The shift was short notice – in three or four days’ time.

Armed with this rationale, I felt confident that I could ask for a higher rate and get it. Here is the breakdown of my first stab at negotiation:

“Hi [pharmacy manager], how are you?”

“Not bad Kristoffer. Did you get my text about the shift this Saturday?”

“Yes I did, thanks for letting me know. I should be able to work it. I was just wondering if there is any flexibility in the hourly pay? As I was expecting a bit more – given the going rate.”

“Well Kristoffer, that’s the rate we pay newly qualified pharmacists like yourself, so that’s all we can offer.”

“Oh, ok. That’s no problem. I can cover the shift on Saturday.”

As you can see, my first attempt at negotiation fell flat on its face.

Looking back, I like to think through the different ways that I could have played it. However, what I would have done differently doesn’t really matter.

I don’t regret taking the shift for a slightly lower rate than I had originally hoped. Working that Saturday morning helped me assess my own worth, and consider what I was willing to work for in the future. It meant that the next time the manager offered me a shift, I felt confident enough in my abilities to turn the rate down.

Reflecting on what you as a pharmacist deserve to be paid is something all locums need to do. Not only the newly qualified – who may understandably want to take the first shift that comes their way – but those who have been working as a regular locum for while, and feel their efforts deserve to be reflected in their rate.

Don’t let my first failed attempt put you off though – if you feel you deserve a higher rate, do speak to your employer. But make sure you can justify why your efforts or skills warrant an increase.

Kristoffer Stewart is CPD and clinical editor of C+D, as well as a locum community pharmacist. Email him at [email protected] or contact him on Twitter @CandDKristoffer. Read his feature on negotiating locum rates here

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peter kelly, Community pharmacist

First rule of negotiating, you have to be prepared to walk away. Late notice for a weekend shift, you have a chance of getting a higher rate. Nobody wants the hassle of ringing around looking for locums coming up to the weekend. Fair play for giving it a go, like everything else in life, you only learn by practice and failure. My advice to locums out there, always try negotiate a higher rate, always ask. Nothing to lose asking. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

You'll get there, took me several months before I attracted the higher rates of pay. I did say no to a few and held my ground many times. Locum Dispensers and Technicians is a bit of a different ball game though compared to Pharmacists.

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

And he was paid to write this non story!

Pharma Tron , Community pharmacist

Basically, in a nut shell:


I asked for more money


They said no


I did it anyway


Quiet news day? 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

There will always be a young sucker right behind you willing to...............

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

To be fair, it is easier not to be a 'sucker' when you:

1) Did not have to pay tuition fees (and were in fact paid money via a grant)

2) Do not have a huge student debt with an interest rate above 6%

3) Bought a house when prices were a much lower multiple of median wages

4) Have paid off your mortgage or most of it

5) Have accumulated compounded  wealth from decades of constant and well paid work

6) Worked through 'the bubble period' of locum wages 

7) Have a substantial private pension 

8) Did not begin your working life during/after the worst economic crisis since the depression 

9) Worked during a period when graduate numbers were controlled to avoid a surplus 

10) Did not have to compete with thousands of EU pharmacists 

11) Did not face a government who want to remove 1/3 of your sector just as you enter that sector 

12) Did not face a genuine threat of replacement by AI, robotics and online services

and thirteen, entered a profession when older pharmacists were able to (and wanted to) nurture and promote younger pharmacists. 


Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Only very few will tick those boxes and they'll be in their late fifties and sixties. The yooung graduates can content themselves with the knowledge that the government in cahoots with multiples have urposefully laid this trap for them and continue to lull them into community phamacy with lies and false promises. Pharmacy Degree course - **BUYER BEWARE**

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Well, more like 40s, 50s and 60s.

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