There may come a time in your career where a full or part-time permanent social work role may no longer fit with your lifestyle, career ambitions or the need to be more flexible to gain a good work-life balance.
Taking control of when you work, where you work and for who is appealing for some and the numbers of agency social workers is increasing.
Permanent or agency?
A permanent, employed contract is typically on ongoing position with one authority. It provides stability, a clear career path and helps build relationships by working in a team.
An agency social worker typically agrees to work on a temporary contract with a short probation period, typically up to three months to ensure the agency social worker and the role match.
Agency social work roles may start as a short contract, which in most cases is extended.
Benefits of agency work
- Flexibility: as an agency social worker you are in control. You are in control of what contracts you want to accept, the hours you work, length of contract, which authority/ies you work for and whether you work full or part-time.
- A healthy, work-life balance: contracted to work certain hours, as an agency social worker you can plan your work around day-to-day commitments, take a break between contracts and have that flexibility to suit your lifestyle.
- Career progression: although you may not have access to an employer’s CPD programme, if you are a BASW member you do have access to a range of training courses and our Independent Local Networks to ensure you are up-to-date with the latest regulations and legislation.
- A fully rounded social worker: management styles differ and as an agency social worker you will have access to a multitude of different teams and authorities, learning first-hand new ways of working and developing new working relationships to help you to become a better social worker.
- Rates of pay: whilst the rates of pay between fully-contracted and agency social workers are levelling-out, higher rates of pay tend to be associated with agency work. Unlike permanent employment, you do not need to wait for a pay rise, you choose the contract that fits the best with your experience and pay expectations.
- Weekly wage: agency social workers are paid weekly, so you can manage your finances better. Working with a specialist social work umbrella service, such as Social Work Employment Services, you will be paid on time, in full, every week.
Agency v locum
Working with agencies: many social workers work with agencies in a variety of settings that may include the agency allocating cases to the worker. This arrangement can be as a self-employed professional or as an employee and will depend on the contractual agreement. If working with more than one agency at a time, it is possible to do so as both an employee and self-employed social worker.
BASW recommends seeking advice from an accountant to ensure you're in the correct tax arrangement as this is the responsibility of the worker.
Working as a locum through an agency: when working as a locum, social workers are often placed by an agency into an organisation on a temporary basis. This is often considered within IR35 and therefore subject to taxes as an employee which leads many locums to work through an umbrella company. Find out more on working through an umbrella here.