A recent survey carried out by The College of Optometrists reported that 74% of people in the UK either wear corrective eyewear or have improved their vision through laser eye surgery.
The report also revealed that the British public value their sight above any other sense, which along with the country’s ageing population has made eye health a priority for many people.
Taking care of the nation’s eyes is a team of optometry professionals working in healthcare centres, pharmacies and opticians. Some of these individuals choose to work on a locum basis either filling in for absent employees or providing extra manpower where it is needed most.
Qualifications needed to become a locum optician
To become a dispensing optician, a role where the responsibilities includes fitting lenses for customers, providing advice and altering existing frames you will usually need to have completed a three year university course that has been accredited by the General Optician Council (GOC). Those who can demonstrate significant experience working in the eye care industry may find the entry requirements are more flexible, but this will depend on the position.
Optometrists are responsible for examining patients’ eyes, testing their sight and writing prescriptions. Optometrists are also trained to pick up on any eye problems, diseases, abnormalities and vision defects. To become an optometrist you will need to register with the GOC, to do this you will be required to have completed a GOC approved degree, 12 – 15 months in a salaried pre-registration training position and to have passed the GOC final assessment.
Finding work as a locum optician
One of the UK’s biggest pharmaceutical companies is Boots. With many stores having a department dedicated to eye care services, they take on locums to cover for full-time staff that are sick or on annual leave. Registering as a locum on the Boots opticians’ jobs website is a great way to secure optometry locum work, as they keep a bank of locum staff and contact these individuals when their services are required.
Some other examples of companies that hire locum opticians and optometrists as and when they are required to fill staffing gaps are Asda, Vision Express and Specsavers. To sign up to work as a locum for these companies, you will usually be required to register your details on the respective website and the company will contact you when they have a position that fits your location and availability.
Benefits of becoming a locum optician
There are a range of benefits that come with working on a locum basis, some of which are listed below.
- Set your rates of pay – As a locum optician or optometrist, you will be working as your own boss by completing work for a company (your client) and then invoicing them for the time that you have spent working. As a locum your employers are not required to pay National Insurance contributions and you are not entitled to employee benefits such as pension contributions and sick pay. This may leave you with greater scope to negotiate your daily or hourly rate.
- Flexible working hours – Working as your own boss allows you to effectively choose when you want to work. Many locum opticians schedule their working hours to fit around any personal commitments that they may have.
- Advance your skill set – Through working as a locum optician, you will be exposed to lots of different positions, patients and situations in a relatively short space of time and therefore you can gain lots of skills and experience quickly. Many locum opticians will choose which positions they accept and which positions they decline based on whether the roles will enhance their CV and skill set or not.
- Opportunities for retired opticians and optometrists – Retired opticians and optometrists may choose to work as locums to keep themselves updated with any changes in this rapidly evolving industry. Senior positions, which require the wisdom that comes from years of experience, are well suited to retired professionals who have the knowledge to implement change and make improvements where necessary.
Rates of pay for locum opticians
For an idea of the amount that you could be earning, please see below some approximate rates of pay for locum opticians and optometrists, as detailed by Talent.com (correct as of 2021):
- Locum dispensing optician:£104 per day
- Locum optometrist: £295 per day
Appointing an accountant
Working as your own boss means that you take on the responsibility of ensuring that you are paying the correct amount of tax and National Insurance. If you have just started working for yourself, you don’t want to waste any precious time pouring over your finances, which could be better spent growing your business. This is just one of the reasons why many self-employed individuals choose to appoint an accountant to look after their finances and ensure that they are working in the most tax-efficient way possible.