9 Important Things to Look for in a Dental Associate Contract

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If you are a dental associate looking for a position, you want to ensure your dental associate contract is accurate and protects your interests.

A dental associate contract is a legally binding agreement prepared by a dental practice with the expectation of hiring an associate dentist. It outlines the terms of employment, including the salary and benefits that have been previously negotiated, and assures both the dental practice and the associate are on the same page going in.

Below are 9 important things you should look for in a dental associate contract.

1. Salary and Compensation

In many cases, salary and compensation are the first things to consider when looking to sign a dental associate contract. Therefore, it is important to do a little research. Hence, you know the average salary for a dental associate in your area.

Negotiating the best salary and benefits from the start helps both sides avoid any misunderstandings in the long run.

The salary and compensation section should outline pay models, anticipated deductions, and other details related to how the associate will receive monetary compensation.

Here is an article that helps identify red flags in a dental associate contract.

2. Benefits Package

The second most important section in a dental associate contract is the type of employee benefits package offered. Again, you want to look for the most competitive package, but what is considered good benefits varies from practice to practice.

Essential things to look for include:

  • Health and life insurance
  • Vacation time
  • Holidays
  • Retirement fund options

Additionally, as a dental associate, you will need to carry some liability insurance, so figuring out if the dental practice covers it is important to consider.

Here is an article about negotiating your dental associate contract.

3. Terms of Employment

The terms of employment sections of a dental associate contract should answer three key questions:

  • First, how long does the contract last?
  • How do the parties end or terminate the contract?
  • What happens if either party wants to terminate the contract?

Usually included with the termination clause, this area of the agreement is to put a time frame on the contract. However, some contracts can have indefinite terms.

Here is an article with contract tips for first-time dental associates.

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4. Termination of Employment

The early termination agreement identifies the rights either party has to end the agreement before the expiration of that agreement. There are two possible scenarios:

  • Termination with cause: this section will outline those terms in detail.
  • Termination without cause: either party can end the arrangement for any reason or even no reason at all. Sometimes notice is required, but not in all cases.

Here is an article that gives a detailed description of what to expect in a dental associate contract.

5. Associate Roles and Duties

The associate roles and duties section is where the dental practice will include any expectations they have for the dental associate’s day-to-day responsibilities. If this section is sparse, you may want to ask more questions to clarify, as this will be a mitigating factor if entering litigation.

They should include the technical requirements of holding the position, including any licenses or compliance duties, and the responsibility expectations within the dental office.

Here is an article about the types of dental employment contracts.

6. Qualifications for Employment

Another important mitigating factor of a dental associate contract is employment qualifications. These were probably included right in the job description when the job was posted for applicants. However, it also needs to be part of the legally binding contract.

As with the roles and duties section, this is an important area to familiarize yourself with. This is another way to include what the dental practice expects from the start. If any information provided is false, it could also be grounds for litigation.

Here is an article describing key terms in a dental associate contract.

7. Liability Insurance Coverage

Most dental professionals are aware of the need for malpractice insurance. Still, you are looking to see who will be responsible for paying that insurance. It would be a great benefit if it were included in the employment package, but it is not a requirement that they do so.

Here is an article that answers some FAQs about professional liability insurance.

8. Non-Competition Clause

Sometimes referred to as a noncompete agreement, the non-competition clause protects the practice from losing a good employee to a competitor. To be considered a valid restrictive covenant, it will need to include:

  • a specific period of time following the end of the employment relationship
  • a specific geographic area

This provision could be in the employment agreement, part of a separate section within the employee agreement, or as a separate agreement altogether.

Here is an article with tips on non-compete agreements for dental associates.

9. Dispute Resolution Agreement

The dispute resolution portion of a dental associate contract should establish how a dispute arising from the agreement is settled. The most common settlement options include:

  • Arbitration : where a neutral third-party arbitrator or panel of arbitrators hears the dispute and renders a decision that is enforceable by the courts.
  • Mediation : where a neutral third-party works with both parties to try and reach a dispute resolution agreement. Mediation is not binding, but it is usually a required step before formal litigation.
  • Mediation then Arbitration : The parties start with mediation, but if they do not reach an agreement, they proceed directly to arbitration.

Here is an article about resolving professional conflicts as a dental associate.

Employment law varies depending on where you will be working, so it is important to speak to a professional lawyer before entering into a dental associate agreement.

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