Dental Associate Contract (Guide to 3 KEY Requirements)
Dental associate employment agreements are important legal documents for both the dental professional and the employer. Signing such a contract means you understand what is expected of you and your employer moving forward.
If you’re a dental associate about to join employment, you may be wondering what to look out for in your employment contract. What benefits should the employer provide? Can you cancel your contract at any time? And are there drawbacks to signing such a contract? Here’s everything you need to know about the dental associate employment agreement.
What is Dental Associate Employment Agreement?
Dental associate employment agreement is a contract between the dentist employer (practice owner) and an employee (dental associate) that sets out the terms and conditions of employment.
The agreement specifies the services to be provided, the duration of employment and other relevant details that should guide both the dental associate and the practice owner on how to work together.
It is vital to have a dental contract lawyer review your employment agreement before signing it. This way, you can be sure that the contract is as fair and reasonable to you as it is to your employer.
What To Look Out For in a Dental Associate Employment Agreement | Contracts
When signing a dental associate employment agreement, it’s important to ensure the following terms are present and well explained:
The contract should specify the start and end dates of the employment so as to determine the length of the term. It also should outline any conditions that need to be fulfilled before the start date, such as acquiring a license in the practicing state.
The contract expiration date should be included, after which the terms of employment will need to be renewed either automatically or manually.
Alternatively, the agreement may state that the contract will continue until either party terminates it. So be sure to check which applies to your situation and have it stated clearly in the contract to avoid issues such as having to wait for a certain period to be able to renew your contract.
Duties and Responsibilities
What exactly are you being employed to do? Your contract should outline your daily duties and responsibilities in detail. It should also specify the working hours, days, and location.
It should also clearly state if the required hours will be counted for your clinical duties or will you also include other administrative and marketing duties you may be required to do.
Understanding your duties and responsibilities ensures there’s no confusion about what’s expected of you, and you can’t be held accountable for something that wasn’t part of your job description.
The contract should also specify the benefits that the employer will provide, such as paid time off, health insurance, continuing education reimbursement, and retirement savings plans.
Benefits play a big role in your overall compensation; therefore, if you’re not happy with what’s being offered, be sure to bring it up and negotiate for a better benefits package.
Some employers may include a clause in the contract that prohibits you from working for a competitor during and after your employment for a specific geographical area and time period.
If such a clause is included in your contract, ensure you’re comfortable with it, as it can hinder you from finding a job if you leave the practice. If you’ll be working in a densely populated area, a radius of 2-15 miles is fair and reasonable.
The contract should state how disputes between you and your employer will be resolved. This may include arbitration or mediation, which are alternatives to going to court. It is important to have this part in the contract so that you know what to expect if a disagreement arises.
Who can terminate the contract? How much notice should be given? Are there repercussions thereafter? Your contract should address these questions as well as specify the conditions under which the agreement can be terminated, for example, due to breach of contract. If the provisions are not specific, for instance, such as “the associates disobey the employer” or “the employer is not happy with the work,” then the contract may be terminated for any reason.
Note that there’s a difference between the termination of employment and the termination of a contract. Unless the agreement is terminated, you may be entitled to some provisions even after your employment is terminated. So, check the wording. Also, make certain that you are not signing an independent contractor agreement, as this is a different employment relationship.
How and when you will be paid? What is the salary or hourly rate? Are you eligible for overtime pay, and how will it be calculated? Which compensation model will be used? These are the questions that your contract should be able to answer. It should clearly lay out the payment models and all the terms involved. This part of the agreement is very important to you, and you should therefore pay close attention to it. After all, you’re working to make a living.
Professional Liability Insurance
Every dental associate should have liability insurance. Such insurance is meant to financially protect you in the event that a patient sues you for malpractice. Some employers will require you to get your own policy, while some will include it in the contract. If the employer is including it in the contract, make sure you understand what is and isn’t covered. You don’t want to be caught up in surprise later on.
About to sign a Dental Employment Contract?
Dental associate employment agreements are important documents that specify the terms of your employment. Be sure to read them carefully and understand all the clauses before signing. And if you’re not happy with the terms of the contract, don’t be afraid to negotiate. After all, it’s your career. You want to make sure you’re protected. The best way to ensure you get the best outcome is by involving a knowledgeable dental contract lawyer to review your agreement. Our attorneys are available to do so. We has the experience and skills needed to help you. Reach out to us today.
Other Blogs of Interest
- How do you Terminate a Dental Associate Contract Without Cause? | Agreement Termination
- How to Get Out of a Dental Associate Contract? | Employment Agreement
- How Long Are Most Dental Associate Contracts? | Dentists Agreement
How to Negotiate a Dental Associate Contract | Dentist Employment and Dental Negotiations
How should you negotiate an associate contract? I’ll give some tips and tricks to get a better contract. There’s a difference between negotiating a contract with somebody just out of training versus someone already established in a community. You have more leverage if either a corporate practice or another group is bringing out your practice. Or wants you to join them. And you have an established patient base. Suppose you’re coming out of training. What do you need to do to put yourself in the best position to negotiate a contract?
For most dentists, the most important things are salary. Is it a base salary? A daily rate? Is it a net collection? How do you terminate the contract? Can you get out of it with a certain amount of notice or benefits? Are they paying for your license, DEA registration, credentialing, or continuing education, and are there signing bonuses and relocation assistance? Will you be paying them back if you leave within a certain time? Probably the two highest priorities are: who’s paying malpractice insurance? And who must be paying for tail insurance after the contract terminates if it’s a claims-made policy?
Also the non-compete. This is some people’s absolute, most important thing in the contract. If they’re tied to a community, kids in school, or family, they absolutely can’t leave. Then you need a reasonable non-compete that’s not going to make your move entirely out of the area.
Know The Average Pay in Practice
Those are the most important things to dental associates. Now, you’re coming on training, you have a position offer, and they’re giving you a certain financial amount. How do you know what’s reasonable? Talking to your classmates is the best way to find that information. What offers are they getting? How much are they getting and how are they structured? Where do offers come from? That’s the best and most accurate means of finding out what the going rate is at that time. The compensation is going to vary wildly. Is it a base salary? Is it a daily rate? Is there some net collection involved? Or is it a hybrid? And could it be half base, half net-collections?
Other Things to Consider Beyond Compensation
Often, dental compensation for a job may look great, but the benefits are inadequate. They’re not paying for your tail insurance, or the non-compete is terrible. So, you can’t just take a salary as the number one factor in determining a good opportunity. But it is undoubtedly vital. Knowing whether a non-compete is fair or not is something you probably must talk to a professional about.
Mostly, anywhere between one to two years and 5 to 15 miles from your primary practice location would be reasonable. If you’re in a non-compete that’s more than two years, or it knocks out like multiple counties. Or maybe they’ve attached the non-compete radius to 10 locations. Say, it’s a corporate practice in a big city having 10 locations. And they’re saying, well, you can’t work within 10 miles of every site we own. That’s not a reasonable non-compete.
The actual negotiation will depend on two things. One, do they give you an offer letter, or do they give you the employment agreement? If they give you an offer letter, they expect those terms will be negotiated in advance. Then incorporated into the employment agreement. And then, they’re going to give you the employment agreement. Sometimes it’s challenging to come to terms with the main parts of an offer letter without seeing the full employment agreement. If I had a perfect scenario, there would be no offer letter. They would give the employment agreement.
Then you’d completely understand what the work entails and the expectations for both parties. You could agree to a salary, the length of term, that there’s a non-compete, that’s the things they’ll pay for. But when you see the specific language in the contract, it could significantly change the way you look at its value.
You Can Negotiate The Contract Even After Signing the Offer Letter
Just because you’ve signed an offer letter doesn’t mean you can’t renegotiate if you provide proper context to the employer. Alright, I was okay with making $110,000 a year and a base salary. Not knowing the non-compete effectively knocks me out of this state. If you want me to sign this dental contract with that non-compete, I need 130,000. There are many ways of going back and forth. Some employers will just say, this is a take-it or leave-it. I would be wary of signing a contract with an organization unwilling to make any changes in the agreement.
It usually means they’re difficult to work with down the road or have a very rigid and unprofessional environment. So, if you find that someone says, take it or leave it, I would leave it and move on. And try to find a better opportunity. I’m just telling you. If they take the mindset that they’re not going to change anything in the contract, like nothing at all. No change at signing bonus, relocation assistance, benefits, anything like that. It is a bad sign moving forward.
Top Tip: Check the Without Cause Termination
One more thing to keep in mind when signing a dental contract or negotiating the terms of an agreement. Every employment contract should have what’s called without-cause termination. Either party should be able to terminate the agreement at any time with a certain amount of notice to the other. Usually, somewhere between 30 to 90 days.
If your contract doesn’t have without-cause termination. It means you must fulfill the entire initial term of the agreement somewhere between one to three years. Normally, it is an enormous red flag. You absolutely should not sign that contract for this reason. Suppose they have excluded without-cause termination, which is standard across all healthcare professions. In that case, it usually means they’ve had a ton of turnover or very dissatisfied dentists who wanted to leave. So, they’ve removed that ability and made sure they must stay there for three years, two years, etc.
Usually, it’s not in the contract because they’ve had a ton of turnover and it’s normally due to bad management. Either it’s a toxic work environment. Or the compensation is not worth the amount of period or effort you’ve, you’ve had to put into it. It makes sense that there’s always without-cause termination in the employment agreement.
Talk to Dental Associate Contract Lawyers
Don’t feel bad about asking for things. If you’re negotiating the terms of employment, most smart employers expect there will be some back and forth. Ask for a little more salary, a little more bonus, and a little less non-compete radius. Incremental things you can get changed in the agreement can make a big change in the value of an opportunity. So, don’t feel bad.
Now, if they’re offering a hundred and you ask for 300 or some crazy amount. They’ll think you have no idea what’s going on. They’ll probably move on. When you ask for something, it needs to be reasonable. How do you find out what’s reasonable or not? Once again, talk to your classmates, mentors, or attorneys who understand what they’re doing. Those dealing with these contracts every day. That’s where you need to get in. But if you ask for these ridiculous changes to an agreement, most places will pull the offer and say no. So, that’s how you negotiate an associate contract.
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