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Time to review your dental associate contract? Update on the BDA associate agreement

Blog Author James Goldman

Blog Date 29/08/2018



We have recently updated the BDA template dental associate agreements to reflect feedback from members and developments in law.


We recommend that associates now review their contract with their practice owner and adopt the new model agreement, where appropriate.

There are a number of templates reflecting whether you are in NHS, private or mixed practice and which country you work in, in the UK. The changes are designed to give dental associates more control over how they work.

Here's a summary of the key changes to template associate agreements:


Practice hours

This should state when the practice is available for the associate to use, but there is no explicit obligation on the associate to use the facilities at those times. As self-employed individuals, associate dentists should have control over when they work, and responsibility for meeting their contractual obligations.


Whilst associates can choose when they work, they are responsible if they do not meet their NHS or private targets. 

There is protection for practice owners: leaving the practice without NHS cover and in breach of the practice's NHS contract could lead to immediate termination. 


Time away from practice

This is a new term in the contract, which puts the associate in control of when they take time off. 


Time away from the practice could be for a number reasons, including sickness, maternity or paternity leave, CPD and of course holiday (this part totally replaces the previous provisions on holidays or parental leave). 

The reasons for time away from the practice are up to the associate and don't need to be justified to the practice owner.

The associates obligation to the practice owner is to keep them informed about their presence or absence and to give adequate notice of any planned absences. 

Additionally, for absences over a certain length of time (different practices may set this at a couple of days or a week) the associate is responsible for arranging to provide locum cover for their work.


Locum cover

Self-employed contractors do not have to provide a service personally, therefore in addition to providing a locum for absences over a certain length, an associate can also provide a locum at any time, wholly at their discretion. 


Provision of equipment

In the new model agreements, there is an option for an associate to provide some of their own equipment or materials; provided such equipment is suitable for the purpose and in good working order.


Hygienist services

There is an option for referrals to hygienist or therapist services. If the associate receives the fee for work, the associate may choose to subcontract some of that work to a hygienist or therapist in the practice. 

It is important that practice owners are not seen to provide a financial incentive to associates to make hygienist referrals, so the associate paying for this as an additional service ensures neutrality - however, the patient fee should be included in the associate's gross earnings before any charge is made.


NHS contract requirements (England & Wales)

In return for the freedom to choose their own hours, associates are obliged to provide a specific number of UDAs or compensate the practice. 


Associates need to be mindful that practice owners need to fulfil UDA targets to ensure business viability and ensure they help to fulfil their agreed target.


Private fees

The dental associate should be able to charge their customers fees for private work which they believe to be appropriate. 

However, if these fees differ from the practice owner's scale of private fees, then the fee apportionment must be based on at least the practice owner's fee. If, say, the practice fee scale says that a filling is £100. If the associate charges a patient £75 for a filling, the practice will still receive it's share of £100; leaving the associate to bear the full cost of the discount.


Confidentiality and data processing

We have included new clauses regarding confidentiality and data processing, so that the patient records are used in accordance with the GDPR have been incorporated.


Time for a review?

So, this seems like a good time to review your progress - and your contract - with your practice owner, to discuss the changes in the template agreement, and to incorporate what's right for you.

If you aren't sure how to broach the subject with your practice owner, read some top tips on how to approach a review. 


And don't forget an associate contract review service is free for all BDA members who are working as an associate - email your contract to

James Goldman, Associate Director

BDA Advisory Services


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