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Practices facing five-figure bills as locums launch legal cases

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: GP practices are being urged to examine the contracts they hold with locums after lawyers warned of a spate of legal cases.

Legal experts have reported a series of cases of where locums are claiming employee rights, and urged GPs to put safeguards in place to protect themselves against potentially costly law suits.

Michael Paulin, a barrister at 3PB chambers specialising in employment law, said GPs faced bills for tens of thousands of pounds if locums successfully claimed they were employees – and so were entitled to sickness and holiday pay, and compensation when contracts were not extended.

Mr Paulin said the disputes – around the grey area between freelancer and permanent employee - could be explained by the economic climate: ‘People are keen to achieve stability, so locums who would have been happy to work between multiple practices are now attempting to assert employment rights.'

He advised GPs to review their contracts with locums to ensure they precisely reflected what had been agreed, and take legal advice if in doubt: ‘The first thing is to carefully review contracts. The second is to assess the way locums work. Are they for all intents and purposes working on the same basis as employees, or are there significant differences?'

The warning comes as the GPC prepares to ramp up representation of sessional GPs by doubling their number to 16 - a move Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said might be emboldening locums.

‘It all resides around this term long-term locum,' he said. 'It's an oxymoron. If you're working regular sessions for a long period, you're probably not a locum.'

GPs are being urged to examine contracts closely before they sign on the dotted line GPs are being urged to examine contracts closely before they sign on the dotted line

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