If you are an associate seeking a position, knowing what to look for and what to include in an associate contract is critical in protecting your best interests. Several key components that an associate contract should include are the salary and benefits package, the terms of employment, and what happens in the case of a separation. Similar to our previous blog on what to look for in associate contracts as a practice owner, we discuss several key items that you should include or keep an eye out for when negotiating associate contracts.
Finances and Benefits
If you are a dental associate, you will want the best contract to enhance your finances and career. You should look for a competitive benefits package, including one that has health and life insurance, disability, and retirement. Looking for a contract that includes paid holidays and vacation can be a bonus. In addition, you will want to make sure that the dental practice carries liability insurance for you, as well as offers to pay for any annual continuing education or professional dues requirements.
Though it might seem like a no-brainer, you will also want to negotiate the best salary that you can. This includes negotiating how many hours you will need to work, what your schedule will be like, and if you have any flexibility related to either of those aspects. Similarly, you may want to have the contract include a term for your employment. This can be both good and bad, depending on the situation. Having a contract with a dental practice means that you can feel secure in having a job. The alternative to this is that if you end up wanting to quit your job, you may not be able to get out of the contract easily. In some cases, you can even be penalized for breaking that agreement prematurely. Overall, it would be in your best interest to make sure there are no penalties in your contract related to termination of employment.
One of the most important elements that you need to watch for in an associate contract is a non-compete clause or other restrictive covenant. Such a clause can limit you from practicing in a geographic area for a certain time after you separate from a dental practice. For example, if the practice you are leaving is part of a DSO or has several locations, you could be limited in practicing within a certain number of miles of each and every location. In locales that are not very large, this can really limit your career’s outlook.
Another clause you should watch for is one that includes any other post-termination promises. For example, there could be a requirement that you must notify every patient that you treated upon your separation of employment, encouraging that patient to remain at the dental practice. If you accidentally miss a post-termination clause in your contract, you could be significantly limiting your career and your new practice.
While you may feel limited in your ability to negotiate for a position, do not let that prevent you from trying to obtain the best outcome. By making certain that your associate contract contains the clauses you want, you can feel more secure. When you seek a balance of compensation, benefits, and equitable terms of separation, you will likely find yourself as a party to a fair associate contract.