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Hot Topic Highlight - What is a Locum?

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Building a Better You

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What is this week's blog about?

In this week’s blog, we take a look at what a locum is and what their role is in relation to sole practitioner. This is a typical issue addressed within the RICS APC competency, Ethics, rules of conduct and professionalism.

In our work with candidates during the Autumn 2020 sitting, we found that many were not aware of the role of locums so here is our brief guide to help you ace your APC in 2021 and beyond!

What is a locum?

Rules 12 of the RICS Rules of Conduct for Firms (Version 7, effective 2 March 2020) relates to arrangements to cover the incapacity or death of a sole practitioner. Specifically, it requires ‘a Firm which has a sole principal (i.e. a sole practitioner or a sole director in a corporate practice) to have in place appropriate arrangements in the event of that sole principal’s death or incapacity or other extended absences’.

A locum is effectively another professional who is appointed to ‘stand in’ for the surveyor if they are unable to work, e.g. in the event of an accident/illness, unforeseen circumstances, prolonged absence (e.g. holiday or a sabbatical) or death.

Who can be a locum?

Typically, a locum will be another Chartered Surveyor, although they could also be aa solicitor or accountant by trade, i.e. a trusted professional.

What guidance do RICS provide?

RICS used to publish a number of Regulation Help Sheets to explain various issues, particularly those relating to small businesses. Many of these, including one relating to Rule 12 and locums, have been archived. However, a sample locum agreement can be downloaded in relation to client money handling.

In any case, if a firm is being run by a locum then RICS must be notified.

How is a locum appointed?

A locum should be appointed formally in writing, documenting the following:

  • Appointment details

  • Confidentiality clauses

  • Any conflicts of interest

  • Fee basis

  • Termination

  • Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) requirements

  • Process for the locum to act independently or if they need to seek instructions before proceeding

How does PII cover relate to locums?

Locums need to be covered for any work undertaken whilst a sole practitioner is unavailable. This could either be under their own cover, if appropriate, or under the Firm’s policy. Speaking with an insurance broker is always a good step to take.

If a sole practitioner unfortunately dies, then their PII cover will need to be converted to run-off cover. This relates to work undertaken by the sole practitioner and any former employees and will also protect their estate. You can read more about run-off cover in a recent blog.

What typical activities might a locum undertake?

In the usual course of business, a locum may be appointed by a sole practitioner as their complaints handling officer to ensure that their Complaints Handling Procedure can be run fairly and impartially.

Locums may need to handle client money during a sole practitioner’s absence. This means they will need to be able to access relevant accounts in line with a signed agreement with the bank. The locum will also need to be familiar and act in line with the RICS requirements relating to client money handling.

They may also need to access client files to ensure ongoing work can continue. This means they will need access to electronic and hard copy files, including knowing any passwords and having a list of key contacts. They will also need to be familiar with any legal, banking, tax and accounting processes.

In the event of the sole practitioner not being able to return to work, the locum may also become responsible for overseeing the sale of the firm.

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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