How much time off should a dentist get? Simple, let’s say you’re a dental associate, you’re looking at a new contract. Then they’re offering you a certain amount of time off. Is it fair how much vacation or time off they’re offering you? First, let’s talk about what goes into paid time off. PTOs, known as paid time off, usually include four things. It’ll have vacation days, sick days, holidays, and continuing education. If you add all of those up, that’s the number that matters. If you have ten days of vacation, seven federal holidays, five days for CE, and five sick days. Adding all of those up could be a reasonable amount.
Vacation and Paid Time Off for Dentist Employee
You must ensure that the contract states how much time you get. And what part of that total number corresponds to the vacation, sick days, holidays, and CE. Some places use a pure PTO system, meaning everything comes from the same bucket. So, if you’ve gone from the office for whatever reason, it’s a holiday. You’re continuing education. You’re sick, or you’re on vacation, it doesn’t matter. Everything comes out of that bucket.
But others specify, and this is the most common way, exactly how many days you get for each thing. Let’s break down those four elements. Regarding vacation, most dental associates will get somewhere between 10 to 15 days of vacation. If they offer you five days of vacation, that is not enough. So, somewhere between 10 to 15 days paid vacation.
How Many Sick Days Can Dentists Take?
Sick days can vary by state. Some states have an actual law that states that if you’re a full-time employee, you get this many sick days. There are other states where it’s ambiguous. Normally, most places offer somewhere between 3 to 5 sick days, or they might lump it into the vacation. But that’s a reasonable amount. Regarding federal holidays, in most places, 6 or 7 federal holidays per year. That’s easy to understand. And then continuing education, once again, somewhere between 3 to 5 days. time
How Much Paid Time Off Should You Aim For?
A dental associate should aim for somewhere between 20 to 30 total days of time off. When you add up those four things, it should be somewhere between 20 to 30 days. If you’re not within that range, I mean if you’re beyond that range, great, good for you. If you’re not getting the 20 days adding all that up, you’re not getting enough time off. Or at least you’re not getting enough time off compared to your peers, so you need to ask for more.
For a Dentist Employee on a Daily Rate
Now, a couple of considerations if you are on a pure production compensation agreement. That means, maybe you get a daily rate with no paid time off. When I’m talking about this, usually, it would pertain to people on salary. Sometimes, if it’s a production/salary hybrid. But if they pay you a daily rate, they may still pay you for those days you’re off. But many employers will simply state you get paid if you work and don’t get paid if you don’t. However you can take as much time off as you want. Suppose you are on a pure net collections-based agreement. You would get a percentage of whatever the dental practice collects based upon your personally performed services.
In that scenario, obviously, the less you work, the less you will collect. And so have to determine how much time off you can take. Versus how much you’re going to make by taking that much time off. And then decide how much is the right amount for you.
If you’re on a pure base salary, say you make 110,000 per year, the more time off, the better. Because your compensation isn’t going to be affected whether you’re there or not or what your productivity is. So, try to advocate for more if you’re on a pure base salary. Whereas if you’re on hybrid or pure productivity, it might change the equation somehow. In summary, you should aim for somewhere between 20 to 30 days of total time off. Anything above 30 would be rare, to be honest. But somewhere in that range would be considered fair, in my opinion.
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How to Negotiate a Dental Associate Contract
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 many 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 the 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 you 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, 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? Or 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 coming 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, any 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.
No Paid Time Off is a Red Flag
Workers, such as Dentists, need support in getting PTO, and companies must provide paid time off to their employees. In negotiating contracts, remember that negotiating about money alone is shortsighted. Usually, during the hiring process, management is willing to negotiate with employees other things, such as how many vacation days an employee will receive. If paid time off is not in your contract, this is considered a red flag and you need to negotiate with the company.
How to Negotiate a Dental Associate Salary?
How should you negotiate an associate salary? I will provide tips and tricks as far on how to get the best dental practice compensation. The first thing to discuss is how often employers pay dental associates via salary versus another compensation model. There are usually four common types of compensation structure.
Common Types of Compensation Model
The first would be a base salary. You just get paid a set a month, you work whatever the agreed-upon hours are. And that’s it. The second would be a hybrid-based salary with the net-collections model. Net collection would be any money that the practice brings in based upon your personally performed services. And so, the associate would get a smaller monthly salary. Then they get a percentage of net-collections, whatever the practice brings in monthly or quarterly. The third way is pure net-collections. This means the associate only gets paid based on what they bring in. That’s risky. And then the last is a daily rate. Many dental associates will get a daily rate, and then they work either half-day, full-day, or whatever. And that’s how much they earn.
Tips for Negotiating Better Compensation
Essentials of negotiating a dental salary. I won’t focus entirely on salary since there are other avenues the dentist needs to think about. Let’s discuss salary. First, you need to know what your worth is. You need to know the going rate in the area you’re looking in. The experience you provide, if you’re in a specialty. And what kind of normal computation for that.
There’s no great resource aggregating all the data for dental salaries across the country that I find accurate. So, talk to colleagues, mentors, and people you were training with. It’s usually the most precise way of determining the going rate. And occasionally, some dental associations can provide some data, but I wouldn’t entirely rely upon it. When you get an initial offer, let’s say it’s for 120,000. Most employers expect at least some kind of back and forth as far as settlement is concerned. So, don’t feel bad asking for more.
Now, how much more depends, but you need to be reasonable. If 120 is the average for a, let’s say, you’re right out of training, you have no experience building up a practice. And you say, you know what, I don’t want 120, I want 240. Well, the employer will likely laugh it off.
And it will put you, or at least start you on the wrong foot. If you’re going to ask for a bigger amount, it needs to be reasonable. It needs to be as informed as you can be. One good way of doing it is if you’ve identified an area you want to practice. Reach out to multiple practices and try to get an average of what they offer you. And then, that way, you can determine if one place is kind of low-balling you or not.
Ancillary Benefits, Proper Staffing, And More
Beyond salary, you also need to consider all the ancillary benefits like health, vision, dental, life, disability, and retirement. But then are there potential bonuses? Are they paying for your malpractice insurance and tail insurance? What are the restrictive covenants? When people base employment on the baseline number for salary and not anything else, I think that’s shortsighted. One work paying $20,000 less could be much better considering all the different bonuses and benefits. And maybe a lesser restrictive covenant. The non-compete, for instance, versus another one paying 20,000 more but doesn’t offer all those other good things.
Another tip: when searching for your first work out of training, go into an environment you can learn from. There should be other experienced dentists around you in a professional environment. You need to interview and go out and look at the practice and see how they operate. Is there proper staffing? Are you going to be efficient? If they’re paying you for productivity, will they do everything necessary to make you as efficient as possible? Because if they don’t, your production will be less, and you’ll make less.
Dentist Employee Compensation Models
Now, as far as the other compensation models, a daily rate is pretty simple. I mean, it’s the same analysis of determining how much they will offer you if you have a base salary. Usually, it’s somewhere between eight hundred to a thousand per day, a thousand on the high side. If it’s a compensation structure involving a base salary and net-collections, they’d depend upon how much base salary you’re getting.
But typically, if it’s a hybrid, meaning base salary and collections, your collections will be somewhere between 15 to 25%. And then the last one would be pure net-collections. That’s usually somewhere between 35 to 45%. I think closer to 35 would be most likely as far as that goes.
So, that’s a little breakdown of how to negotiate an associate salary. It’s tough when you have no experience, you’re not bringing any patients into a practice. You need to think of the best learning environment or build up your skills. And then utilize that down the road to leverage the salary.
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Contract Review, Termination Issues and more!