If you are a dentist who is about to join a practice as an associate, you will want to review your employment agreement very carefully as it defines the rights between employer & employee and is typically put in place to protect the employer. Below are a few key items to consider; these have some of the most impact on your future plans for growth.
1. Fixed-Term vs. At-Will
If your employer implements a fixed-term agreement, your employment will be for a specified period of time and may only be terminated as provided in the agreement. The agreement should explain when and how your employment will end, as well as if you are able to renew your term there. This is common if you are being hired as seasonal staff or filling in for someone who may be sick or on maternity leave.
The typical agreement, however, is on an at-will basis. Unless your agreement specifies a defined period of time of employment, you are employed “at will”. This means that either you or the employer may terminate employment at any time for almost any reason, with one notable exception being certain types of discrimination. Your agreement will most likely be at-will, so just bear that in mind.
2. Employee vs. Independent Contractor
The agreement should also specify whether you are an actual employee or an independent contractor. It may seem like a fine distinction, but it could have large consequences. Employees typically have benefits, while independent contractors do not. Employers have much greater control over the when, where and how of the job. And employees generally enjoy greater liability protection under the employer’s umbrella.
3. Role Description & Responsibilities
Your agreement should include a detailed description of your daily tasks and long-term responsibilities. Know what your employer’s expectations are regarding your role at the practice.
Probably one of the main things you’ll be worried about is when and how much you’ll be getting paid. Payment terms should be laid out in your agreement, sometimes as a percentage of your collections or an annual salary. Make sure you understand the formula and find out if it is subject to your employer’s discretion. Your contract should also list when and how often you’ll get paid. Make sure that you understand and that you’re comfortable with how this is set up.
Know what benefits the practice provides and make sure they are all included in the agreement. Common items include health insurance, vacation/sick days, professional liability insurance, bonuses, reimbursement for professional dues & CEs, retirement plans, etc. Know what types of benefits you would appreciate and discuss them with your employer. Remember that your agreement is not set in stone.