Get it in Writing!

I learned very early in my adult life that nothing is ever final until the ink has dried.

There were a number of incidences in my life to this point, some sad ones, that led me to this conclusion.

As a young dentist, here’s one instance where I applied this principle….

When I left employed practice and purchased my private practice, I delayed giving notice to my employer because of my belief in the above statement.

The main reason for this was that until contracts were exchanged in purchasing a practice, I believed that there was no need to jeopardise my employment while I was basically still “looking around”.

And also, in this case, with my employer, we had a contract of employment that clearly stipulated two weeks notice to end the agreement.

So when the time came to hand in my notice to him, after three good years of employment, sadly, that’s all the notice I gave.

Regrettably I thought, in hindsight, that this was wrong. I should have given more. My parting with my employer was acrimonious. It could have been better. And it should have been on better terms. And I regretted not giving him more notice. I regretted for thirty and a half years.

That was, until this week.

You see what happened this week was this.

There’s a dentist, who I know well, who had just recently, well five months ago, just started doing some part time work as a dentist, in someone else’s practice. This was new for him, as he had always previously worked for himself.

But my friend had been looking forward to the new role. He was enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of being an employee, or contractor, and being able to hang up his drill at the end of the day and not have to worry about all the rigmarole and protocol of the running of a dental office…the bill paying, the HR, the payroll, the marketing….the list goes on.

Well sadly, after five months in this new position at this new dental practice, things changed for my friend.

You see, firstly, the practice started to go quiet, and so my friend’s employer decided it was time to let my friend go…Fair enough, but here’s what happened.

My friend, the employed dentist, started to notice that his appointment book was looking thin. And upon closer examination, it appeared that no one was being scheduled with him, so suddenly, his patient pool was quickly drying up.

You see, my friend had taken a week of leave. When he returned after this time, not one extra patient had been booked in to see him. Not a one. My friend said that although he wasn’t Nostradamus, he said he could see the writing on the wall.

This was interesting, because as you remember from earlier, this was also my fear of what could happen for me all these years ago when I decided to leave employment and go into my own practice.

The sad thing for my friend was, he had no contract of employment. No paper. No contract. Zero. Just a few words exchanged in trust. He thought that things would be OK.

Yes, stupidly, he’d entered into this employment relationship without getting a word put down on paper.

Now sure, words were said in principle, and there was a verbal agreement re terms of employment, like commission rate. But there was not much else said. And sadly there was nothing, nil, zero, about what to do when either party wanted out.

My friend felt hard done by. After all, if he were a dental assistant, or a receptionist, or a hygienist, there would have been at least a week’s notice or a week’s pay in lieu.

He asked his employer for some financial compensation. He got told, No. No money. Stiff.


So here’s the lesson.

If I was going into employment in the future, here’s what I’d do.

Get everything in writing. At least get a letter of agreement between both parties. Signed. Get something on paper.
I’d make sure your agreement has something about what to do when the employment ends. Because, otherwise, it can and will get messy. Like Divorce, it’s a lot easier to finalise if there is an agreement beforehand. It’s very difficult to organise a pre-nup during separation.

My friend is finding this out.

So what sort of ending should you look for at the end of a term of employment?

Here are my thoughts. Based on my memories of thirty years ago, and of my friend’s experiences.

If the employed dentist wants to leave, he needs to give notice. At least 4 weeks, but I’d say eight. That’s only fair. As an employer of dentists, replacing a good assistant dentist in a short time is a very difficult process.

If the employer wants to end the arrangement, he needs to give acceptable notice. I’d say ten weeks.

And I’d say that the employer needs to guarantee the same patient volumes to the employed dentist during this period of notice, in both cases. And if he doesn’t then I believe the employer should pay the employee at the same rate that he has been earning during his employment. No ifs or buts. So either ten weeks good quality work, or ten weeks pay in lieu!

An agreement like this will mean two things:

No cutting off of patient flow by the employer. No cutting short of manpower by the employee.

This would have worked for my friend. It also would have worked for me thirty odd years ago…

You see, after all, hopefully we’re talking about educated professionals working with each other.

Not children playing in the sandpit.

That’s how my friend felt.

Next week we’ll cover the implications to both sides of having no written agreement…stay tuned….

What do you think my friend should do?
What do you think the employer should do?


The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple easy to implement system I developed that allowed me to build an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb.  If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

Email me:

Did you like this blog article? If you did then hit the share buttons below and share it with your friends and colleagues. Share it via email, Facebook and twitter!!