How long are most veterinarian associate contracts? First, you need to know two things to determine the average length of a contract. One is how to terminate the agreement, and two, does the contract automatically renew? Let’s kind of hit all of those.
There’s usually an initial term to the contract. An initial term means the length of the contract before it ends. Or, if there’s a language, it could automatically renew for successive terms after the initial period ends. The average length for an initial term is somewhere between two to three years. And so, in most contracts, after that two or three-year period ends. As I said before, there’d be language that states it automatically renews for one-year terms after that. And then it just continuously renews unless terminated by the vet. That’s a normal amount of time. If you have a five-year contract, it’s abnormal.
Employee or Employer Can Terminate Employment Agreements
Now, does it ultimately matter? Not really, because of this: every contract will have ways that the vet or the employer can terminate the agreement. There will be a without-cause termination clause. And this means either party can terminate agreements any time with a certain amount of notice to the other party.
You could be one month into your job. You hate it, maybe especially lately, the lack of staffing makes your job impossible. Or perhaps you’re being paid on pure productivity, and the volume is terrible. And you’re like, this is not for me. In the contract, if you have without-cause termination, usually, it’s somewhere between 30 to 90 days for most veterinary associates. And so, you would say, I’m giving you my notice, and then, let’s say it’s a 60-day time. You’d work out those 60 days, and you could leave at the end of the 60 days. If you can terminate the contract at any time and reason, the contract length doesn’t matter in some ways.
If you had a five-year term but could terminate the contract with 60 days’ notice, it’s only a 60-day contract. You can think of it that way. Now, when is a good time to renegotiate the agreements? Well, usually, it would be at the end of whatever year period. Let’s say you’re just on a straight-based salary. You may approach the employer, and say, I’ve been this productive, and I believe I deserve an increase to this amount. Some people are concerned that if it just automatically renews forever, the job’ll stick them with the same salary forever.
Veterinarians Can Negotiate their Employment Agreements
You can renegotiate at any time. Go to the employer and say, look, I’m generating $600,000 a year, and only making a hundred thousand. I want an increase. For most veterinarians, it would be between 18 to 22% of their net-collections. In that scenario, you’ll say, if you don’t raise my salary, I’m going to give you notice and then leave. And obviously, they may call your bluff if you’re not willing to leave. But that’s a good stopping point to say to them, look, I’m worth more than what. And it’s time to renegotiate.
The average contract length doesn’t matter if you can terminate the contract at any point. Is there one length that’s better than another? Not really, not taking that into account. Now, there is one other type of length of term, it’s called an evergreen contract. And this is being used more and more lately for whatever reason. There is no initial term set. So the contract will continue forever until one of the parties terminates agreements per the contract terms. Once again, that’s fine if you can terminate the contract without-cause at any point. If it’s a contract that goes on forever still is just if the notice period is required. So, that’s a little primer on the average length of a veterinary employee contract agreement.
Other Blogs of Interest
- Is 10 Miles a Reasonable Non Compete for a Veterinarian?
- What is a Draw in a Veterinary Associate Contract?
Veterinary Professional Practice Benefits
Veterinarians are in high demand. People want to do everything within their power to care for pets so near and dear to their hearts. And the skills that a veterinarian brings to the table are highly prized. The supply of veterinarians is somewhat lacking compared to the overall demand in the market at this time. This meant employers had to look at ways to sweeten the deal to get as many vets as possible.
Why Employers Require a Contract for Veterinarians
Many jobs in any business or industry require a potential employee to sign an employment contract. One that lays out the foundation and terms of employment. And the benefits of coming to work at a specific facility. Often, they do this as means of encouraging people to accept a particular job offer they might not have otherwise. When benefits are laid on the table, it’s easier for people to see why they should work for a specific employer. One they consider working for.
Employers will always ask veterinarians to sign a contract of employment before they can begin their work. After all, the business veterinarians do is often so delicate and sensitive that no aspect of it can be compromised. The employer needs to know what they are getting for their business when they offer employment to a veterinarian. On the plus side for incoming vets. They can see the benefits they’ll receive all laid out in a way that makes it clear what to expect.
Benefits of Veterinarian Contracts
Employment agreements benefits include the fact that it can provide some much-needed stability to the veterinarian. Many veterinary contracts are designed to run for 12 months or longer. Thus, veterinarians can feel confident that they will be employed at a specific facility for at least a year. That is, if they don’t do anything egregious, that will nullify the contract. We’d also explore some additional upsides to veterinarian contracts to clarify why these documents are so important to many.
Professional Liability Insurance
No matter how talented someone is at their job, there is always a risk that something terrible could go wrong. Veterinary Practice News explains why vets are strongly encouraged to purchase protection that’ll keep them and their veterinary practice safe:
As claims become more common and damages rise, defending against malpractice claims becomes more expensive and necessary for veterinary practices. Like many professionals, veterinarians commonly purchase professional liability (malpractice) insurance to guard against the expense of defending against such claims. If an employer can add professional liability insurance as a benefit to the contract, this is all upside for the veterinarian. It is a total relief. It means they may not have to pay for this insurance out of their pocket. Unless they want supplemental coverage beyond what the employer provides.
Clients are often very particular about how their pets are taken care of. They may feel that they have a claim against you if something goes wrong with their pet’s care. And in the business of medicine, events related to malpractice can have a long damaging effect on the vet’s career. That’s why all vets considering a new employment offer should speak with a veterinary contract lawyer. In order to review the paperwork the employer asked them to sign. And to ensure it includes extensive liability insurance protections.
Everyone must think about their financial future as they are still actively working. Preparing for the fact that you won’t be able to work as you do now someday is a wise practice. Simply because it is the reality of the situation. It would help if you prepared for the day when you are past the age of working. And need to rely on the savings you have accumulated throughout your working life. A 401(k) plan for veterinarians should be automatic in any agreements they sign. This is to say what any veterinarian thinking about signing up for a job with a given employer should recognize. The employer needs to offer a 401(k) plan for the vet to consider it.
PTO and Sick Days
Veterinarians considering a new work may want to give special consideration to personal time off (PTO) and sick days allotted. The reason? Because they must have the opportunity to establish some work/life balance in their existence.
A burnout crisis is sweeping through the practice at this time as the number of clients continues to grow. Many vets must work far more hours under far more challenging conditions than they usually would. Given all this, it’s abundantly clear that vets need to catch some breaks. And be allowed to recover from the onslaught that is their job. When looking over contracts, veterinarians should see how their time off breaks down into different categories, such as:
- Sick days
- Vacation days
- Personal time off (PTO)
- Flex time
Employers have different definitions for how they look at time provided to their employees to take care of their needs. Before signing employment or independent contractor agreements, it is crucial to understand what those definitions are.
Discounted or Free Services
It would be unusual for a veterinarian not to have a pet (or two, or three!) of their own. Thus, it is a reasonable assumption that the vet may receive special discounts or even free services from their employer. They may not want to work on their pet for understandable reasons. But they may have the opportunity to receive veterinary care from a co-worker who can help them out. Their employer should discount this service as part of the terms of their employment. This may seem like a small thing. But it makes a big difference in the lives of busy veterinarians with multiple pets that need taking care of. Getting a little break on those services can be the cherry on top.
Reach Out Today
Before you sign on to any professional veterinary offer, we would like to have the opportunity to discuss it with you. We intend to help you understand every element of your contract (including an analysis of your non-compete agreement). And if said contract makes sense for your needs. Please get in touch with us. Let us know how we can start the process of helping you receive the assistance that you require.
Veterinary Contract Questions?
Contract Review, Termination Issues and more!