Contractual friction burns

John Makin on how to temper the fallout when a relationship between practice and associate turns sour.

Dentists have traditionally worked in general practice on a self-employed basis.

In most cases, it’s a win-win situation, as the associate can focus on caring for their patients and developing their skills without the additional pressures of practice ownership, and the practice gains a valuable and enthusiastic member of the team.

However, sometimes the relationship between practice and associate can turn sour, and when this happens there can be serious repercussions for the dental professionals concerned.

The DDU is receiving more calls from members with concerns arising from associate agreements.

Concerns range from the imposition of formal treatment targets and notice periods to ‘binding out’ clauses that prevent associates from working within a certain radius of the practice after they leave.

Seek an amicable resolution

Sadly, in an increasing number of cases, we have also supported dental professionals who have been reported to the General Dental Council (GDC) by a colleague.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of a business or professional dispute, it is better to try to resolve it amicably, if possible, rather than involving the GDC or embarking on costly and time-consuming legal proceedings.

Ideally, an associate agreement should strike a careful balance between protecting the interests of both the practice owner and the associate.

It is in the interests of both parties to have a balanced agreement in place, as this should reduce the likelihood of disputes and contribute to a healthy working relationship.

The DDU provides a free associate contract checking and advice service for both associates and principals as a benefit of membership.

Our dentolegal experts can provide advice on the wording of associate agreements, check contracts against best practice guidelines and provide a model contract.

The DDU has also negotiated competitive rates for members for whom taking a contract dispute further is, unfortunately, unavoidable and they require specific legal advice.

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