What’s normal in an employment contract for self-employed dentists?
If you choose to work on a self-employed basis, which most associates do, you will need a written agreement in place signed by you and the practice principal for each role you enter into. Once signed, it is a legally binding contract so the best thing you can do is acquaint yourself with what’s typically included in the contract – if you can get your hands on one.
The British Dental Association (BDA) provides a number of template contracts to its members covering NHS and private practice. There are also different versions for locums and full-time associates. This is a good starting point if you’re unfamiliar with employment contracts, particularly as many practice owners use the BDA template or a similar standard contract as a guide when creating their own agreements. Though it’s important to note that many add in their own specific terms and conditions, tweaking the template, it’s important that you understand the contents of the document before signing on the dotted line. Likewise, if possible, it’s recommended that you get your contract looked over by a professional body such as the BDA (which is a service that is available to all members) to ensure there are no unreasonable demands within it. For now, here are some of the key areas to consider:
Most associate agreements stick to the industry norm of three months’ notice, but you might find that some practices will ask for more than that – perhaps four to six months or sometimes more if they want you to commit for a fixed-term. This could make things difficult is and when you decide to move on in the future. It is therefore important to go through the contract with a fine-tooth comb before you agree to anything.
It’s not uncommon for associate contracts to include performance targets. That goes for private practices as well as NHS or mixed practcies. What you need to watch out for is clawback provisions or indemnities – in other words, clauses designed to protect the practice from sustaining any losses should you underperform. This is rarely anything to worry about, but you do have to make sure that the target is achievable and that you are protected should you fail to meet your target as a result of circumstances outside of your control.
This outlines how much you would be required to pay the practice owner for using their premises and facilities. As standard it’s always good to work out the affordability, taking into consideration UDA rates or private earnings, and check that you are getting a fair market rate for your area.
Agency and introduction fee
If it’s not already included, we recommend asking for the agency and introduction fee to be added to the contract. Not only do you need to know the figure so you can include it in your budget, but it’s also vital to be aware of how long you would be liable to pay the fee for and if it reduces on a sliding scale.
Before you even think about signing a contract, you need to be looking into setting yourself up as either a sole trader or limited company. A specialist dental accountant can help with this, as they will be able to determine which pathway would be most suitable for you. Like many things in this profession, the support of an expert at the beginning will save you time and hassle later on.