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Encouraging overseas vets to the UK after Brexit

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Pete the Vet veterinary-nurses, Veterinary Surgeon

The precise details of what Brexit will mean remains a mystery. Every week it seems that an announcement will be made to clarify what will actually happen, yet specific facts remain scanty at the time of writing this blog post.

However, it does seem clear that without overseas vets working in the United Kingdom, the current shortage of veterinary surgeons would be only made worse. So if logic and common sense have anything to do with the decisions that are made, it’s very likely that vets from other countries will still be able to work here.

The question then needs to be asked: what needs to be done to encourage them to base themselves in this country?

There are five main factors:

Salary
Vets in the UK are still paid significantly more than vets in many other parts of the world, and a generous salary package may be one of the most attractive features of working here.  Veterinary salaries vary across Europe, generally being higher in the northern and western countries, and lower in the southern and eastern regions. So it’s natural that there is a draw towards the UK for this reason, and the better the package that can be offered, the more likely vets will wish to take up a job.

Working conditions
As with any sector, veterinary clinics vary significantly in the type of working environment. From hours worked, to the quality of the clinic infrastructure, to after-hours arrangements,  to the friendliness of the team. The overall result of the package can be termed ‘working conditions”, and to attract the best vets visiting from overseas, the best possible working environment is needed.

Continuing Professional Development
The UK has a wide range of possible sources of ongoing education for vets, from online courses to wet labs to focussed one to one tuition to conferences like BSAVA Congress and London Vet Show. If you want to attract the best staff, it helps if you can provide them with extra perks like top quality education. Many overseas vets are highly motivated individuals who are keen to better themselves, highly valuing this type of personal investment. As a clinic owner, there is, of course, a significant cost, but the return in terms of enthusiasm and new skills can be immeasurable.

Holidays and long weekends off
For people visiting from overseas, there’s a natural urge to want to go back home from time to time. As a result, the need for a generous allowance for periods of time off work is arguably even more important than it is for vets originating from the UK. We all need to visit our families and to reconnect with our own culture from time to time. If your clinic is located close to a major transport hub (such as one of the main airports) it’s likely to make you a more attractive employer.

Extra incentives
If you can imagine yourself as a foreign person visiting the UK, there are a number of areas of life that are more complicated than they are for UK citizens. So as a veterinary employer, if you can help as much as you can, this will be valued. Examples include providing accommodation, a car, a mobile phone and perhaps health insurance. There are, of course, tax implications, but all the same, the easier you make it for an overseas person to relocate, the more likely they will be to decide in your favour.

One last thought: after Brexit, it’s likely that it will become more difficult for overseas vets to move to the UK, while it seems likely that those already based here will be able to remain in their jobs. Issues like RCVS acceptance of overseas qualifications may well change, and it may be more difficult for vets to work here without doing extra exams.

For this reason, if you are considering employing a vet from overseas, it makes sense to do this sooner rather than later. It’s quite possible that from March 29th 2019, it may be considerably more difficult to tick all the necessary boxes to allow overseas vets to join your workforce.

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