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Staff Contracts – Getting Them Right

Staff Contracts – Getting Them Right

Dental practices rely upon many things to operate – premises, equipment, and the obvious….patients. However, without staff, the practice simply wouldn’t be able to run. No receptionist to greet the patients, no nurses to assist the dentists and run the LDU, and so on.

As an employer, a practice owner has various responsibilities, not least of which is the requirement to provide every staff member with a written statement of employment particulars (which many would refer to as an employment contract). Failure to do so is a breach of employment legislation and as of April 2020, this should be provided by the first day of employment.

Most practice owners will be well aware of the complexity of employment legislation, and the increasingly onerous duties which they owe. Unfortunately, we still see many instances where there are no contracts in place, or where they are in place, they are deficient in a number of ways.

So, as a starting point, make sure that you have employment contracts in place. We would recommend that you obtain the contract from a reliable source so that you have comfort that it contains all the elements which are required by law. Don’t rely on something sourced from the internet, or a copy from a friend who owns a practice, as you won’t know whether the contract does what it needs to.

In turn, using an old style of contract carries some risk. The minimum requirements for employment contracts changed in 2020, and so using a template which is older than that is likely to mean that you have some gaps in the documentation.

You should also ensure that if you use a template contract, you should read it carefully to ensure that it reflects the terms which you actually wish to put in place with that employee. We do occasionally find that practices have taken a template and not read it beforehand, and when they need to refer to it (more often than not when a dispute has arisen) they discover that the terms are not what they imagined. So it’s not just a case of filling in the blanks in a template. Bear in mind that employment contracts as not set in stone as such, and provided that they meet the legislative requirements, there is flexibility in the terms that you agree with any given staff member.

Once you have prepared a contract for a staff member, obviously you need to give it to them to consider. Beyond that, however, make sure that you receive a signed copy back. That is ultimately evidence that the employee has seen the contract and agreed to its terms.

Also take a bit of care around some of the practical information in the contract, to make sure that it is correct. One area which we do see from time to time is actually who is the employer. In particular, the principal might be named as the employer, whereas in fact the practice is owned by a company. In turn, expense sharing arrangements are slightly tricky in that the employer is often shown in various ways e.g. just the practice name, just one of the expense sharers, all of the expense sharers, etc. Joint employment is not necessarily advisable, and we would recommend that you seek legal advice on your contracts if you run an expense sharing practice.

Consider whether there are any specific provisions which you wish to include in the contracts, and which may not be in a template document. An example might be including a requirement to repay training costs. Where you pay for a nurse, as an example, to do training, but obviously want to benefit from that training by the nurse remaining with the practice for a period of time afterwards. You can provide for that in the employment contract, or in a separate document, but any arrangement regarding repayment of training costs must be clear, recorded and agreed to.  The repayment arrangements must be reasonable and it would be advisable to take advice regarding the terms.  Any conditions of employment, e.g. to be registered with the GDC, should also be covered off.

Finally, and perhaps rather obviously, once you have employment contracts in place, follow their terms. Don’t ignore the contract and do something different.  That will just lead to the potential for disagreement, and not complying with your own contracts may well lead to a claim for breach of contract, and make the defence of a tribunal claim much more difficult.

Michael Royden is a Corporate Solicitor specialising in advice to the dental profession.  We are always delighted to talk without obligation about whether we might meet your needs. Call Michael on 03330 430350 or email

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Michael Royden
Michael Royden

Michael Royden


Corporate & Commercial

For more information, contact Michael Royden or any member of the Corporate & Commercial team on +44 1382 346222.