Time for a review: Top tips for associates on asking for a pay rise

Blog Author Sabina Mizra

Blog Date 24/08/2017

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We’re often asked by associates, what percentage is fair for splitting costs with my practice owner? The BDA doesn’t recommend a set percentage, and the reason for that, is that all practices and their circumstances are different.

Looking at the associate contracts reviewed by the BDA’s Practice Support team, it seems that practice owners usually charge a percentage of between 40-55% of gross earnings for you to practise dentistry at their premises. But this is anecdotal, and practice owners will have to make a commercial decision based on their operating costs.

However, it may be advantageous to request your fees be reviewed with the practice owner every year. Remember to take into account your performance and cost of living changes, whilst bearing in mind the practice owner will need to consider his/her practice overheads too. If these discussions are not taking place, ask your practice owner for an annual review.

We’d recommend watching this video from the BBC with three tips on how to ask for a pay rise – it’s not specific to dental associates, but some of the tips are totally translatable to you. A BBC survey recently suggested that women are less confident than men about asking for a pay rise, and with the issue of gender pay equality never far from the headlines, and the number of women working in dentistry rising, the advice in this video ‘to just do it’, I think is good advice to follow.

Discussing your issues and problems is important to help combat tension and frustrations, both practice owners and associates needs to realise that they have a shared self-interest in making the practice successful, and working together is the most effective way to do this.

Practice owners will tend to look at the gross fees of the practice and the overall costs they have to meet. The practice needs to cover all its costs and expenses and return a suitable profit.

Each year the Government’s review body on pay (DDRB) recommends the levels for uplift of contract values across the UK. The Government then decides on whether to agree to the proposed uplift (sometimes at inflationary levels, but sometimes below – technically, dentists pay has been ‘frozen’ since 2008 due to problematic NHS finances)

So each year, we undertake a huge amount of research into the state of dentistry and submit recommendations to Government based on our findings. We are the only organisation that does this for you, across the four nations. We consistently make the point that dentists’ pay has been deteriorating since 2008, and with declining real terms incomes, and that one per cent uplifts cannot reverse the downwards trend.

But one important thing to remember, is that it’s not just about pay. We are all, of course, motivated by money to some degree, but there are many other factors that contribute to our level of happiness and job satisfaction at work. Working conditions, flexible hours, the personalities in the practice, respect between colleagues, the ease of getting to and from work, opportunities for further training and career development, are all important things to consider.

You should take a range of factors into account and weighing them up when thinking about what makes you happy at work, and get it clear in your mind what you are willing to negotiate on and what you are not, when you go and have that all important annual conversation.

Sabina Mizra
BDA Practice Management Consultant​