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Becoming a locum GP in Australia can be an attractive option for healthcare professionals looking to expand their horizons, gain diverse experience, or enjoy a flexible lifestyle. But what exactly does it mean to be a locum GP? Who might be interested in pursuing this career path? More importantly, what’s the locum pay like in the Land Down Under?

A locum GP, or locum tenens general practitioner, is a physician who temporarily fills in for other GPs in medical practices, clinics, hospitals, or other healthcare settings. They step in to cover shifts when regular GPs are on leave, attending conferences, or taking sabbaticals. Locum doctors are also called to step in to meet the needs of underserved areas or communities that don’t have enough GPs to address the demand for healthcare services. Locum GPs can work in both urban and rural areas, providing essential primary care services to communities across Australia.

Newly graduated doctors, and experienced GPs seeking flexibility or exploring different practice settings may find locum GP jobs rewarding, especially if they don’t mind or perhaps even enjoy commuting or travelling from one place to another. Locum work can also be financially rewarding, especially for GPs who are willing to work in high-demand areas or during peak seasons.

Locum GPs may receive higher hourly rates or additional incentives, such as travel allowances, accommodation, and access to continuing medical education (CME) programs. This can translate into higher earning potential compared to traditional salaried positions. For GPs approaching retirement or transitioning into semi-retirement, locum work offers a flexible way to stay engaged in clinical practice, supplement their income, and continue making a meaningful impact on patient care.

Now, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter and explore locum pay rates for doctors, particularly for locum GPs in Australia.


How Much Do Locum GPs Earn in Australia?

So, how much do locum doctors earn in Australia, specifically GPs? Before answering this question, we need to emphasise that how much locum doctors earn typically varies, depending on certain factors like:

  • their level of experience;
  • the location of their placement;
  • cost of living in the area; and
  • the demand for their services.

For example, the general locum GP rates may be higher in remote or rural areas where there is a greater need for healthcare professionals and where living expenses may be higher. Conversely, rates may be lower in metropolitan areas where there’s a higher concentration of healthcare providers available and a lower cost of living.

Locum GPs may be paid by the hour or by the day, depending on what’s stipulated in their medical services contract. Hourly and daily rates for locum GPs can range from around $150 to $400 per hour or $800 to $4,000 per day.

On average, a locum GP in a private practice may work during normal business hours (8:30am to 5pm), with a half hour lunch break in between. Around eight to 10 hours of work per day is typical, although this can decrease or increase depending on the doctor’s preferences, practice requirements, and contractual agreement.

Some locum placements may require GPs to take on longer shifts, such as 12-hour days or overnight coverage, while others may offer more standard hours similar to regular GP work. Ultimately, the number of hours worked per day can vary depending on the requirements of the practice or healthcare establishment and the availability of the locum GP.


How Are Locum GPs Compensated?

At this stage, you may have already realised that there’s no such thing as a locum GP salary per se because there’s no base pay for locums (this applies to locum healthcare or medical staff in general, not just general practitioners). Instead, what locum GPs get is a variable rate (hourly or daily) as previously discussed.

In metro areas, locum GPs may be given a percentage of billings. However, this does not apply across the board and not in all situations. Some medical establishments give a percentage of billings (around 70%), while others offer a guaranteed hourly rate between $150 and $200. But if you’re hired as a locum GP for a government-funded urgent care clinic, you may be given a rate that’s well above $200 per hour. Additionally, in rural or remote areas where there’s usually a higher demand for locum GPs, it’s more common to have a fixed hourly rate, especially if the practice is attached to a hospital.

It’s important to note that any locums employed in public hospitals in regional or rural areas would have a guaranteed hourly rate. Locum GP visiting medical officers (VMOs) working in private practice may also provide medical services in public hospitals where they are needed. However, to become one, you need to be on the lookout for openings (or be offered the role directly), and be prepared to satisfy specific requirements, including your qualifications, experience, and references.


Locum GP Pay Rate Considerations

Several factors influence locum GP pay rates in Australia, reflecting the diverse nature of the healthcare landscape and the varying demands for medical services across different settings.

Here are some key conditions that can impact locum GP pay rates:

  • Location: Rural and remote areas often experience shortages of healthcare professionals, leading to higher demand for locum GPs and subsequently higher pay rates to incentivise practitioners to work in these underserved areas. In contrast, metropolitan areas with a higher concentration of healthcare providers may offer lower pay rates due to greater competition among locum GPs. For example, a locum GP in Darwin (NT) may get a rate of $1,800 per day or $200 per hour for an 8am to 5pm workday, while a similarly qualified physician may receive $1,400 per day or $155 per hour (working from 8am to 5.30pm) in the same role in Belmont, NSW.
  • After-hours and weekend work: Locum GP positions that require weekend coverage or the delivery of after-hours health services typically command higher pay rates compared to roles with standard Monday to Friday schedules. This is because working outside of regular business hours often involves greater flexibility and availability, as well as the need to provide urgent or emergency care when primary care clinics may be closed.
  • Additional specialty requirements: Some locum GP positions may have specific requirements or need additional skills beyond general practice, such as obstetrics, emergency medicine, or indigenous health. GPs with these specialised skills or qualifications may be able to negotiate higher pay rates because of their added expertise and the niche nature of the services they can provide.
  • Length of placement: The duration of locum placements can also impact pay rates, with longer-term assignments often offering more competitive compensation packages to attract and retain practitioners. Short-term or ad-hoc placements may offer higher hourly rates to compensate for the lack of long-term commitment.
  • Practice setting: Locum GP pay rates may vary depending on the type of healthcare facility or practice setting, such as public hospitals, private clinics, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) or Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS), or aged care facilities. Each setting may have its own funding arrangements, patient demographics, and workload expectations, which can influence pay rates accordingly.

When you take these factors into consideration, it becomes easier to understand why the answer to the question ‘how much does a locum GP earn?’ may not be so straightforward. But by being aware of these factors, you’ll have a clearer basis for gauging how much GPs earn in locum positions. You can also make better decisions about the opportunities available to you and, hopefully, negotiate fair compensation for your services.


Typical Entitlements and Incentives for Locum GPs

To attract candidates, medical establishments looking to fill roles for locum GPs often provide a range of entitlements and incentives that can make the posts rewarding.

While these benefits can vary depending on the specific placement and employer, below are some typical entitlements and incentives that locum GPs may receive:

  • Flexible work hours: Locum GP positions often offer greater flexibility in scheduling, allowing practitioners to choose assignments that align with their personal preferences and lifestyle needs. This flexibility can be particularly appealing for GPs who want work-life balance or have other commitments outside of their medical practice.
  • Competitive pay: The higher pay rates offered to locum GPs (compared to those of permanent or salaried GPs) are designed to compensate for the temporary nature of such assignments. They also reflect the level of demand for locum services.
  • Free accommodation and travel expenses: Many locum GP placements include provisions for accommodation and travel expenses, especially for assignments in rural, remote, or interstate locations where practitioners may need to travel long distances to provide medical care. By covering these costs, employers aim to alleviate the financial burden and logistical challenges associated with relocation.
  • Vehicle provision: In some cases, locum GP positions may include access to a company vehicle or reimbursement for travel expenses incurred during work-related travel. This benefit can be particularly valuable for GPs working in regional or remote areas where access to reliable transportation may be limited.
  • Dedicated parking space: Locum GPs working in hospital settings or large healthcare facilities may be provided with a dedicated parking space to ensure convenient access to their workplace. Having access to designated parking can save time and reduce stress for locum GPs who may need to commute to multiple sites throughout the day.
  • Administrative support: Locum GP positions often come with administrative support from the healthcare facility or practice where the placement is based. This support may include assistance with appointment scheduling, patient referrals, medical billing, and other administrative tasks, so locum GPs can focus on providing high-quality patient care.
  • Work-from-home setup and tech assistance: With the increasing adoption of telehealth services, some locum GP positions may come with the option to work from home, meaning doctors can provide telehealth consultations to their patients remotely. Employers may provide locum GPs with the necessary technology, such as laptops, software, and telecommunication tools, as well as technical assistance to facilitate smooth and effective telehealth consultations.


How Do Locum GPs Get Paid?

Locum GPs in Australia typically have two primary options for how they get paid:

  • Paid as contractors: Like other GPs, locum practitioners can be paid as independent contractors, invoicing the healthcare facility or practice directly for their services. In this arrangement, the locum GP operates as a self-employed individual and is responsible for managing their own taxes, superannuation contributions, and other financial affairs.
  • Paid through an agency: Alternatively, locum GPs may choose to work with a medical recruitment agency or the best paying locum agencies for doctors. The agency acts as an intermediary between the GP and healthcare facilities seeking temporary staffing. In this scenario, the locum GP is often employed by the agency as an on-hire doctor and receives payment from the agency for their services.

When it comes to tax considerations, locum GPs must ensure compliance with relevant taxation laws and regulations. Medical recruitment agencies are increasingly being advised to work with locum GPs operating under a business entity, such as a trust or proprietary limited (Pty Ltd) company, rather than as sole traders. This approach clarifies the employment relationship, as the doctor is then employed by their company rather than directly by the healthcare facility or agency.

Operating through a business entity can provide several advantages, including a clearer delineation of the locum GP’s employment status, simplified tax reporting, and potentially favourable tax implications. Additionally, it may also mitigate any ambiguity surrounding the payment of superannuation contributions and other entitlements, as these obligations are typically addressed through the employment relationship between the locum GP’s company and the agency or healthcare facility.

While Alecto is a leading GP recruiter in Australia, we don’t deal with on-hire locum GP work. Instead, our objective is to match qualified general practitioners interested in locum roles with medical establishments seeking doctors to fill part-time or temporary GP positions.


Find the Best Locum GP Jobs With Alecto

If you’re currently on the lookout for the best locum GP jobs in Australia, working with Alecto could be the best decision you’ll ever make.

At Alecto, we not only provide access to a wide range of regular GP vacancies and locum GP job opportunities; we work meticulously to match candidates with roles that align with their preferences and expertise, ensuring a good fit for both practitioners and the healthcare facilities looking to work with them.

We also offer expert guidance and support throughout the job search process, serving as advocates for locum GPs and representing their best interests. This can mean better contract terms, including competitive pay rates, flexible work schedules, and additional benefits, for you.

Let’s talk.  Get in touch with Alecto, today!