Bridge HR articles
25 May TOP TIPS FOR RECRUITMENT OF VETERINARY SURGEONS AND NURSES
Getting the recruitment of a new staff member right is really important – never more so in roles where it can be difficult to test and gauge levels of a candidate’s technical knowledge and practical competency.
Veterinary practice staffing costs are one of the biggest costs and assets for any veterinary practice, so choosing the right people in the right roles is crucial to:
- the success of your practice;
- avoiding failures and possible legal disputes; and
- reducing practice risks.
To help make any recruitment as successful as possible Claire Horsfield (CIPD HR Practitioner and Senior Paralegal) and Lee Stephens (our Director, Senior Solicitor and Head of our Employment Law Team) outline some useful guidance to consider when recruiting.
1. Be clear from the outset: the vacancy and your process
The key steps in any recruitment process include the following:-
- Identifying the vacancy based upon practice needs and present levels of expertise and resource.
- Create your job and person specification – a detailed outline of the role and what the person will need to succeed in it.
- Deciding whether an occupational requirement applies (see below).
- Prepare a carefully worded advert for the vacancy and sift the applicant – see Equality Act 2010 considerations below.
- Ensure you have equal opportunities monitoring – avoiding prejudice and discrimination in the process.
- Shortlisting – should be undertaken based upon objective criteria and supported with notes.
- Interview and selection – a competency based demonstration of skills and attributes for the role scored objectively
- Making an offer of employment – legal considerations in offers are crucial, for example, they should be subject to necessary conditions and have rights to withdraw offers.
- Contracting and induction and probationary process – these legal and compliance considerations should be mapped out and drawn up by legally qualified advisors and made ready prior to starting and made clear to the successful candidate from the outset.
We know that practice changes and evolves and a ‘like for like’ replacement may not be exactly what the practice needs as a long-term solution.
The difficulty with this suggestion is often that it is focused on the longer term and if you have no succession plan in place, thinking ahead may be difficult to adapt to quickly.
Sometimes it may be useful to appoint a quality self-employed or casual locum or use a fixed term contract in the first instance, to provide time to obtain quality advice and support on exactly what the practice needs both at the time and longer term.
It is both useful and crucial for each level of role, whether it is for a Veterinary Surgeons or Receptionists, Graduates, Interns or Nurses - that clear role specifications, expectations, experience and supervision requirements are set out from the outset including things like: -
- Levels of qualification and experience including EMS experience needed.
- Your standards of care and approach and ethos.
- Make clear what range of procedures and surgical tasks will be required of them and areas of work (small animal, mixed animal, exotics, emergency care etc.).
- Levels of supervision or team direction and/or any management required.
- What equipment and procedures are to be used and, again, what levels of experience, directions and supervision are required throughout the practice - on both day surgeries and emergency services too.
- PDP and CPD processes and support.
- Levels of experience, competence and RCVS registration for the role must be made clear.
2. Get the advertisement right – don’t discriminate
The Equality Act 2010 (EqA) sets out the following obligations to be aware of as an employer:
An employer (A) must not:
Discriminate against or victimise a person (B)
In the arrangements A makes for deciding to whom to offer employment (;
As to the terms on which A offers B employment ().
By not offering B employment ().
In relation to employment by A, harass a person (B) who has applied to A for employment ().
The advertisement of a role might seem fairly straightforward – Registered Nurse, Surgeon, Student, levels of procedural and specific animal experience, the hours, location and salary, however, the advertisement must also be legally compliant with the requirements of the EqA in short, it must not discriminate in arrangements, terms etc. (as above) against the many characteristics protected under the EA which include:
- Pregnancy and Maternity;
- Religion or Belief;
- Sexual Orientation;
- Gender re-assignment; and
- Marriage or Civil Partnership
Thus, you need to ensure that your advertisement and process generally is fully legally compliant – a person can theoretically make a claim based on a discriminatory advertisement.
Your practice, your employees and your recruitment agent can all be liable for discriminating against candidates, your practice can even be liable for the acts of your employees and agents - from the advertisement to the selection - that’s why ensuring you have a clear Equal Opportunities Policy and HR training along with support on the recruitment process for all and particularly for those who are administering the recruitment process directly, is essential, as of course is choosing the right recruiter to work with.
3. Screening applications and shortlisting – objectively justify your decisions.
This is one area that is really tricky.
Again, the Equality Act and potential discrimination issues come into play here.
When rejecting a CV ensure you have an objectively justifiable reason for doing so, based upon your role specifications, skills, qualifications etc.
If someone challenges your decision not to invite them to an interview, you should then be able to objectively justify and defend it – our team can help with job specifications, sifting and interview selection processes.
Also be aware that the Equality and Human Rights Commission Codes recommends:More than one person should shortlist candidates.
- When scoring any score levels for cut-off should be set out in advance - with the scoring criteria.
- Each person should score candidates separately.
- Selection should be on information provided in the application forms and assessment questions.
- Scoring criteria / selection shouldn’t be changed during shortlisting.
4. GDPR / data protection issues
Job applicants are ‘data subjects’ - your recruitment processes then has a number of data protection issues to consider.
The Information Commissioners Employment Practice Code provides guidance on employer obligations for recruitment and selection. Job applicants should be:
- made aware of what information the employer will receive and how the employer will process this information.
- if, usually only after an offer is made, medical information is requested then will this information be transferred to the employee’s file and does the employee consent? How will it be stored and processed, do they consent to that? Note under the Equality Act 2010 employers are prohibited from asking questions about an applicant's health in certain circumstances and, except in very specific prescribed circumstances no medical questions should be asked prior to any job offer being made.
- what will be done with all applicant data and by when?
- how will it be stored and how long for?
A clear GDPR / Data Policy and a Privacy Notice is a legal requirement and should be applied clearly and carefully in the recruitment process.
5. Complete telephone interviews first as part of your pre-selection
This call will be more valuable than you know in gauging their knowledge, experience and more importantly those softer public facing skills which are difficult to measure.
Have a clearly set mix of competency based and generic questions and notes pages, to assess and score and select / shortlist here.
6. Offers of roles – legally subject to all necessary compliance checks
We prepare detailed offer letters and terms all of which are vital to ensure you have the following: -
- A right to withdraw with qualified offers subject to registration and other compliance checks.
- Requirements for all registration, experience, PDP/CPD records, references, right to work checks etc.
- Terms and conditions with clearly set out roles, competency requirements, probationary assessments.
Remember by and large the full terms must be issued from day one – it is a breach of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (as amended April 2020) if you fail to do so.
7. Word of warning: unpaid trial periods must be limited and internships
If you are considering internships then be aware government guidance lists a number of factors that are likely to be taken into account when deciding whether a ‘trial’ or ‘recruitment exercise’ should be paid – in short, the longer any trial period the more likely it creates a contract to provide work thus, in some cases, you could be in breach of the National Minimum Wage Regulations (NMW).
A trial shouldn’t go on for more than it is strictly and reasonably necessary for you to assess ability to do the job, a trial longer than a day is likely to attract the NMW obligations.
Using interns can be invaluable - but please do take advice on pay, terms and supervision, there are many compliance aspects to employing interns that we can easily cover for you in an Intern Agreement.
8. Consider a specialist recruitment service and legal support
Well we would say that wouldn’t we! We care about helping you get the very best out of the recruitment process and protecting your practice interests whilst doing so.
Many newly appointed staff leave under a cloud and worse still, with grievances and complaints. That just shouldn’t happen and if the process is good it rarely does and in the rare occasion then when it does happen - a good process then means those complaints or issues are rarely a major problem.
Investing time now in the process will pay dividend later, either way.
Along with our specialist legal and HR support - there are some more specialist recruitment agencies in the veterinary sector who are capable of assisting with all of the above and ensuring you have access to the right candidates and reduce the time spent on getting down to those final few.
The specialist recruiters often undertake competency based screening going into detail regarding levels of knowledge, skills and experience and if you consider using a service like this it would likely be invaluable in terms of the time it would free up to allow you to continue with your day to day practice.
If you need any advice or support on recruitment, we are happy to help to advise and refer you to our contacts who can also help. Whether it is assisting with the recruitment beginning to end, assisting with the documentation or working alongside a recruitment agency to negotiate final terms for a senior veterinary position we can help.