top of page

Understanding the employment status of associate dentists

Associate dentist performing an examination

When it comes to the dental profession, the issue of employment status is often a point of contention and confusion. This is particularly true for associate dentists who work in various practice settings.

Determining whether or not an associate dentist is self-employed or employed is extremely important, as it affects tax liabilities, entitlements, and legal responsibilities.

In this blog, we'll explore the significance of discerning the employment status of associate dentists and explain how consulting a dental employment lawyer can help you navigate this often complex issue, protecting yourself and your practice.

Why is the distinction so important?

Before we explore the intricacies of the employment status of associate dentists, let's first understand why it's so important. Classifying an associate dentist as self-employed or employed has significant legal and financial implications for both the practitioner and the practice owner. Here's why this distinction matters:


Whether an associate dentist is deemed self-employed or employed directly impacts their tax obligations.

Self-employed individuals are responsible for their own taxes, including income tax and National Insurance contributions, while employed individuals typically have these deductions made by their employer.

Employment rights

Employment status also affects an individual's entitlement to various employment rights and benefits. Self-employed individuals generally have fewer legal protections and entitlements compared to employees, such as sickness pay, paid leave, and maternity or paternity leave.

Legal liabilities

Understanding employment status is essential for both the associate dentist and the practice owner to determine their legal responsibilities, including liability for malpractice and professional misconduct.

How can you determine employment status?

The classification of an associate dentist as self-employed or employed is not solely based on what the parties involved label the relationship; rather, it's determined by the nature of the working arrangement and various legal factors. Here are some key criteria that help define an individual's employment status:

1. Control and supervision

One critical factor is the degree of control and supervision exerted by the practice owner. If the practice owner dictates working hours, and treatment protocols, and closely supervises the associate's work, it suggests an employed relationship. Conversely, more independence in decision-making and treatment planning may lean towards self-employment.

2. Exclusivity

Is the associate dentist exclusively providing services to one practice, or do they have the freedom to work for multiple practices simultaneously? Exclusivity can indicate an employed relationship, whilst the ability to work elsewhere suggests self-employment.

3. Financial Arrangements

How the associate dentist is compensated is another significant indicator. Self-employed individuals typically invoice for their services and are responsible for their own overheads, while employees receive a regular salary and may have expenses covered by the employer.

Ownership and provision of dental equipment and materials can also play a role. Self-employed dentists often provide their own instruments, while employed associates typically use practice-owned equipment.

How can a Dental Employment Lawyer help?

Ascertaining the employment status of associate dentists at your practice can be a complex issue, but it’s also a vital one. If you’re unsure about where to start or need help navigating this process, seeking legal advice from a dental employment lawyer is often a prudent step.

Here's how the dental employment lawyers at Buxton Coates Solicitors can assist:

Legal expertise

Dental employment lawyers are well-versed in employment law, including the nuances specific to the dental profession. They can provide a comprehensive assessment of the working relationship and advise on its employment status based on established legal criteria.

Reviewing contracts

A Dental Employment Lawyer can thoroughly review the employment contract between the associate dentist and the practice owner. They will identify any clauses or terms that may impact the employment status and ensure that the contract accurately reflects the nature of the relationship.


If your associate’s employment status needs to be adjusted, a dental employment lawyer can assist in negotiations between the parties involved. This may involve modifying the terms of the contract to align with the desired status.

Legal protection

In the event of disputes or legal challenges related to employment status, a dental employment lawyer can provide legal representation and protection for both parties, ensuring that their rights and interests are safeguarded.

Book a call with the dental employment lawyers at Buxton Coates Solicitors

Our dental employment lawyers pride themselves in producing bespoke agreements for your practice to minimise the risk of a dispute. Please contact us for further information on 0330 088 2275 or provide your details via the link below and we’ll be in touch:

20 views0 comments


bottom of page