Top associate contract concerns revealed by the DDU
The most common themes and queries from members include:
- Remuneration – sometimes payment calculations are either overly complicated or poorly written, both of which leave room for interpretation. Since the start of the pandemic, many members have contacted the DDU regarding NHS pay and associate contracts. The advice is that any written agreement concerning NHS payments should be in line with current guidance from the various chief dental officers, and if temporary holding arrangements in place, there should be a degree of flexibility for both parties.
- Retained fees – the contract should clearly set out how much money will be withheld, for how long and how the money will be used and why.
- Termination – a contract can usually be terminated by either party by giving the required period of notice, or immediately for specific reasons. However, termination clauses should be balanced, and apply equally to the associate and practice owner.
- Restrictive covenants – also known as “binding out” clauses, these set out a radius within which the associate will be unable to work for a set period of time after the contract ends. In order to be enforceable, such clauses may need to be considered reasonable if scrutinized in a formal dispute.
As part of their membership, DDU members are able to access a free associate contract checking and advice service. The service, which is available to both associate and practice principal members, has had 383 files since its launch in June 2019 and includes:
- Free advice on the wording of associate agreements from dento-legal experts.
- Free checks on contracts against best practice guidelines.
- Free access to a model contract, developed with specialist dental lawyers.
- Competitive rates negotiated for DDU members who wish to take a contract dispute further and need specific legal advice.
David Lauder, dento-legal adviser at the DDU, said, “Since we introduced our associate contract checking service in June 2019, it has proved to be a very popular service offered as part of the standard DDU membership. However, it cannot be denied that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on dentistry and as a result there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding how associate positions may change in the coming months.
“In these unprecedented times, it may be helpful for associates and practice owners to discuss their contracts, including the achievability of any agreed targets and how any changes to the contract would be made going forward.
“Our expert dento-legal advisers are trained to handle the vast majority of queries and members can access this advice by calling our 24-hour dento-legal helpline.”
For more information on the DDU’s associate contract service, visit www.theddu.com/contracts