Becoming an independent nurse contractor

Becoming an independent nurse contractor

Nursing is a diverse and rewarding career, with registered nurses acting in roles with high levels of responsibility, leading patient care and making

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Nursing is a diverse and rewarding career, with registered nurses acting in roles with high levels of responsibility, leading patient care and making decisions on an executive level. It is a fast-growing occupation: as the population ages, people increasingly need care and treatment, and nurses are very much in demand. Nurses find that job security is high and employment opportunities are excellent.

It is a career path that requires a lot of initial hard work to earn the correct qualifications, including formal study – a degree is required in the UK – and practical work experience. However, registered nurses have a wide range of options in terms of choosing where they work, including hospitals, old age homes and GP surgeries.

 The independent route – contracting as a nurse

A common option that many registered nurses take is to work outside of permanent employment with a single healthcare provider by instead offering their skills and services as an independent contractor. By working on an hourly basis for a rehabilitation home, care provider or hospital, you can increase your flexibility, working only as much as and when you want to, and boost your earnings.

You have the option to be paid directly, to form a limited company, or to act as a contractor via an umbrella company. There are tax advantages to forming a limited company, but you will be obligated to personally file taxes with HMRC, ranging from national insurance contributions to income tax, while also acting as a company director. 

Umbrella companies can take care of the paperwork

Many nurses feel that they are best able to deal with matters around patient care, and that dealing with financial paperwork is simply not the best use of their time. Working independently raises a number of contractor pay issues, such as IR35, and operating under an umbrella company is a good way to keep this responsibility from impeding on your ability to work as a nurse.

An umbrella company would collect payment from your clients and then pay you in turn, making sure that all the correct tax deductions are made and that HMRC is kept informed on all levels, effectively acting the way that a traditional employer would. Yet you keep the benefit of being able to work when and where you want to work. 

Changes in NHS rules around nursing contractors

Centrally imposed agency pay caps set in place by the NHS has put some limits on the earning abilities of nurses working as contractors, but this has not stopped the flow of nurses setting up independently. The rise in demand for care still requires the NHS to spend increasing amounts of money on independent workers.

This high demand for contractor services and the flexibility that nurses get by working via the contractor route means that it remains an attractive option. The ability to take on extra shifts is also a strong draw, with nurses finding that they can adjust their workloads around their personal life instead of having hours imposed by their managers, as would be the case in a standard permanent employment arrangement.