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Am I getting paid enough for what I do?

28 Apr 2021 | Peter Orpin


Fair pay is an important element of #GoodWorkplaces, but what does fair pay look like in the veterinary sector? The Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) carry out an annual salary survey to provide members with a benchmark. In this blog, SPVS board member Pete Orpin looks at the results and shares advice for employers and employees on achieving fair pay.

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“Getting a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is a key part of the relationship between employer and employee. If both parties get the balance right, then this is a cornerstone for achieving a good workplace.

What’s a fair rate?

The Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) undertakes a Salary survey every year. The 2020 survey revealed a median salary package of £40,333 to £46,400, depending on the type of work undertaken. Over the last five years the respondents are nearly twice as likely to describe themselves as part time, and a gender pay gap exists of 3-6% for those qualified less than 15 years.

How does the pay for a vet compare with a GP doctor? Our financial rewards lag behind that of our medical colleagues who will earn significantly more with GP basic salaries rising to the range of £60-£91k depending on experience and skills[1]. The salary structure is clearly defined according to pay grades, is supported by the Doctors and Dentist Review Body which makes recommendations for annual pay awards nationally.

There is an old adage that “comparison is the thief of joy” and does not necessarily take you to a good place. There is a risk also of creating an “apple and pear” comparison based on pay alone with work type, pressures and conditions being substantively different. The work as a Doctor is very different to that of a vet.  

However, there are things that we can learn from others. Within veterinary practices the norm would be to pay the “going rate” based on the expectations set by new vets joining the practice. There is seldom a defined, transparent career path and grading system within a small business. Pay awards can often be given according to contributions “above and beyond” in the previous 12 months with reference to the inflation rate. The visibility and self-promotion ability of the employee can therefore influence the pay award and biases can then develop.

What can employers do to help improve remuneration policies?

Ensure everyone knows the value of the total package. Pay is only part of the overall package. Let people know every year the total value of their employment package including CPD, perks, bonuses etc.

Developing a pay grade system is fundamental to achieving a fair system of payment. In my own practice we developed a 5 grade system based on 3 areas of performance- clinical competence, client interactions and ability to work with colleagues effectively.  This encouraged every vet to excel and develop in a balanced way and not just focus on clinical development to the exclusion of non clinical skill sets required for supporting and managing others.

Encouraging high performance and career development. Regular one to ones and reviews should be structured around the grading system to make sure that the focus is firmly kept on developing the right skill sets. If you can motivate and engage all people in the business, then their outputs and remuneration possibilities improve.

Sharing success and team engagement. Money is a poor “day to day” motivator. Within a month of a pay rise you adapt to your new salary and take it for granted. However, if you can link the performance of the site or practice to pay and combine this with regular feedback the whole practice teams can work at a higher level.  What drives motivation is feedback and recognition. I helped develop a profit related pay system over 20 years ago which allowed the whole practice team to receive an annual reward between 2.5-14% of salary based on site and practice performance. The major benefit of this was in improved motivation and engagement with any new initiatives with a much stronger link between team performance and remuneration.

What can employees do to help improve their pay?

Focus on your career development. People tend to spend more time planning holidays than their own career paths. Where do you see yourself going in the next 5 years? What skills do you need to achieve? Clinical? Non clinical? Where are the opportunities? With the incorporation of the majority of practices there will be shortage of highly trained leaders. There are structured programs you can take to improve your non clinical skills through the established ILM system and through other CPD providers. You may choose to go down the specialist route and pursue development within the traditional clinical areas.  If you can progress your skill sets in an area that is in demand your career will flourish.

Don’t be afraid to ask! If you believe your pay does not reflect your efforts ask your boss to review your pay. This conversation has to be carefully thought through but should be rewarding for both sides as it will prompt change. For advice on negotiating pay, read this blog from Paul Horwood or this webpage from the jobsite Monster.

Creating an open, transparent  approach to remuneration is one of the building blocks of creating a great workplace.


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