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Working “On Contract” in Clinical Research

Posted on: 07 May 02


Fifteen years ago, nearly all CRAs worked as permanent employees of pharmaceutical companies, juggling monitoring and project co-ordination responsibilities from an office base in the South East of En
If you have been a clinical research professional for sometime, you could be forgiven for not recognising the industry today as the same as that which first employed you. Fifteen years ago, nearly all CRAs worked as permanent employees of pharmaceutical companies, juggling monitoring and project co-ordination responsibilities from an office base in the South East of England. But changes in the pharmaceutical marketplace have resulted in radical changes to the way in which pharmaceutical companies resource their clinical development programmes – CRAs monitor sites and Project Managers co-ordinate projects across sites. CRAs can work regionally, from their homes and are often managed via regional managers who are also based “in the field”. But by far the most significant change is the move to using contract personnel to supplement a far smaller core of permanent employees. Worldwide revenues of contract research organisations (CROs) are rising steadily and the number of contract resourcing companies has grown dramatically in the 10 years or so since they first started to emerge. All this is indicative of one thing - that pharmaceutical companies are resourcing more and more of their clinical trial work by either “contracting in” personnel to work with them for a fixed term or by “contracting out” the work in it’s entirety to CROs. What’s Good about Contract Working? So in choosing your next career move, can you afford to dismiss contract opportunities? Entry into some organisations will almost certainly be unavailable to you if you do. There is a chance that you will miss the opportunity to develop particular skills or broaden your experience if you limit yourself to headcount positions within a pharmaceutical company. Without a doubt, contract positions offer you the opportunity to gain a “taster” of working in different organisations, therapy areas, phases of research etc before deciding where your true ambitions lie. And in these days of life : work balance, you can afford to take time out to travel or spend more time with the family by planning a gap between shorter-term contracts. A common misunderstanding is that only junior posts can be found on contract. This is certainly not the case - virtually every role that exists in clinical development, at all levels of seniority, can be available as a contract position. What Do You Need to Know? But before you rush headlong into a contract position, you need to ask a few questions.
  • What is the reason that this role is offered as a contract position? Is it a relatively short-term assignment to cover a maternity leaver or an employee on long-term sick leave? Or is it a long-term, “rolling” contract designed to increase resources without increasing headcount?
  • Is the contract offered directly with the organisation concerned, on a freelance basis or via a contract resourcing company, such as Futures Resourcing Limited?
  • What are the chances of the contract being extend past it’s initial fixed term or the position being made permanent? Be sure that you fully understand the limitations, as well as the opportunities offered by a particular position and you will not be disappointed if your expectations are not met. Contract Resourcing Organisations If a contract position is offered via a contract resourcing organisation, you will be employed by them, a third party in the contractual relationship. These types of organisation offer very different terms and conditions of employment and you therefore need to ask some questions of your potential employer:
  • Will you be offered a permanent contract with the organisation?
  • What happens at the end of an assignment to a particular client company?
  • How secure is your continued employment?
  • Will you be moved out of a particular assignment against your wishes?
  • What is their policy if the company you are working with offers you a permanent position?
  • Do they offer a pension scheme? How much is the employer’s contribution and is this dependent on a contribution from the employee?
  • Will you receive life assurance and income protection benefits?
  • Will you get paid holiday and sick leave?
  • What is the notice period and is it the same on both sides?
  • Will you receive an appraisal and if so how often? If the organisation can give you satisfactory answers to all these questions you can feel confident that the myth that contract work is somehow a second – class way of working is just that: a modern myth!
  • Trudy Lowe

    Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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