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Contract checking

As a dentist, you will very likely spend some of your career as a self-employed associate. It is essential to ensure you have a written contract in place to protect your rights.

Your first contract

Practice owners are responsible for providing you with a written contract. It is good practice to be issued with an agreement before you start work to allow you the opportunity to raise any concerns before your first day.


You should make sure the contract is right for you. Use our Associate contract templates, which are specifically drafted to protect the interests of associates. Ensure you get your contract checked.


Free contract checking service

Regardless of the type of contract you have been issued with, you should always have it reviewed before signing. Our in-house team of dental associateship experts can help our members with this.


What should my contract include?

Your associate contract should cover a series of essential areas. We have recommendations for reasonable and fair contract terms.

​Will you be employed or self-employed?

Dr X received a contract and was confused as to why she was being required to pay her own tax.  Shouldn’t her employer do that?  And why wasn’t she entitled to any sick pay or holiday pay?  As a self-employed associate, Dr X soon found out that she paid her own tax at a lower rate than employees but in return had no employment rights.


It is important you have a solid understanding of your rights as a self employed associate. For example, a common mistake made by associates is that you are entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal upon termination of your contract by your practice owner. On the other hand, there is a financial benefit to being self-employed worth thousands of pounds a year. We can advise on the differences between self employed and employed status and your rights.


What is the UDA rate and target?

Dr Y started work at a new practice where his UDA rate was lower but his UDA target was higher than at his previous practice.  He queried this with his principal and found out that his principal was paid a lower rate per UDA by the PCT than his former principal. However, on discussion they decided the UDA target was too ambitious and so mutually agreed that it should be reduced.


The BDA recommends that your UDA rate and target should be clearly stated in your contract. We are happy to advise on average industry rates and targets.


What is the licence fee?

Dr Z was confused as to why her Principal was taking a proportion of the fees she earned. She had completed the UDAs and did not understand why she was not entitled to receive the full amount. On investigation she found that this percentage represented the fee for using her Principal’s premises, employees and equipment. It also protected her status as a self employed person.


Your contract should state the licence fee split to show the percentage taken by your practice owner and the percentage given to you. We are able to advise on average industry licence fee percentages.


Are you able to understand the payment mechanism? Who is required to bear any bad debts?

On receipt of his new contract, Dr A could not understand how he was to be paid. He sought advice from the BDA who similarly could not understand the payment mechanism. He therefore had a meeting with his Principal who explained it and redrafted the contract appropriately. It was agreed that bad debts, when patients do not pay for their treatment, would be shared 50/50.


It is important to have a clear payment mechanism, including provision for bad debts, detailed in your contract. This is to make sure you are aware what you are responsible for.


Special leave: How many non-clinical/study leave days have you been allocated? What provision is made for maternity/paternity/adoption leave?

Dr B and her husband had decided to try for a baby. She was under the impression that she was entitled to one year’s maternity leave.  However, her contract only said 6 months. She checked this with the BDA who confirmed that as a self-employed person she was not entitled to a period of maternity leave. As she would receive NHS maternity payments for 6 months, the contract seemed fair. However, the provision for only one days study leave seemed low. She discussed this with her Principal and they agreed to increase it to three days.


We recommend that your contract details provision for study leave and maternity/paternity/adoption leave. Our specialist advisors are happy to give guidance on industry standards and norms.


What equipment/members of staff will be provided?

Dr C received a new contract which only stated that the Principal would provide her with equipment. She arranged a meeting where they agreed precisely which equipment she would have available. A list was made of this which both she and her Principal signed and the date the equipment was identified to her was inserted into the contract.


We recommend that your contract should state that you will have a nurse available at all times.


What will happen in the event of equipment breakdown?

Dr D’s contract, as concerned equipment breakdown, provided a grace period of 5 days during which his Principal could make the necessary repairs before incurring liability to him. After this period, if the equipment was not repaired, he would be provided with adequate compensation; a credit of UDAs. Dr D was happy with this provision.


We recommend that your practice owner’s responsibilities in the event of equipment breakdown are covered in your contract. If equipment does fail, it is important you raise it promptly with the practice owner or practice manager and ensure that action is taken to fix it. Our specialist advisors are happy to outline  standard industry terms.


What will happen in the event that remedial treatment is required? On termination, are you required to provide a retention fee?

Dr E, on leaving her practice, found that £1,500 had been deducted from her final pay. She queried this with her Principal, as her contract did not make provision for the retention of money on termination. Her Principal apologised and explained that she had retained this money in case any of Dr E’s patients required dental repairs. Although unhappy with the manner which this had been done, Dr E understood the reasons behind this retention and agreed to the retainer. After 12 months, the full £1,500 was returned to Dr E.


We recommend that financial arrangements when you leave your practice are stipulated in your contract. We are happy to advise on fair and reasonable terms.


When are you required to provide a locum?

Dr F was scheduled to have an operation, following which he would be off work for 2 months. He checked his contract which stated that a locum needed to be provided in case of any absences exceeding 2 weeks. It was his responsibility in the first instance to arrange a locum. Dr F asked friends and colleagues and was put in touch with a GDP looking for locum work. Following a meeting and checking references, Dr F and his Principal decided to engage the locum and agreed payment terms.


It is important that your responsibilities for locum provision are agreed with your practice owner. If you have a high UDA target, you need to consider how this will be met in your absence. We are happy to recommend industry standards for locum provision.


What is the notice period? On termination of your contract, what is the restraint of trade period?

Dr G wanted to leave her practice and start work at a new practice 2 miles away. She duly gave three months notice as requested by her contract, however she discovered that there was a post termination restriction of two miles from her work practice. She did not wish to breach this covenant and so immediately brought it to her Principal’s attention. After a discussion, it was agreed that her Principal would not enforce this restriction as, in this particular case, there was little risk to her business. An agreement was signed to this effect.


Restraint of trade distances can vary according to your practice location. We may be able to help discuss the extent to which restraints of trade can be enforced and what to do if you think you may be in breach of a restraint of trade.

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