As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”
Here, we will cover eight potential red flags to watch out for when it comes to your contract.
When it comes to your physician employment contract, you should pay a lot of attention, and fully understand the details. Those pesky details can spell the difference between a great employment contract and one that you will regret. We hear more than we’d like ‘I wish I found you guys years ago.’
This is especially true when you see red flags—details that warn you to stop, pay attention, and address the issue at hand. The contract seems ‘good’ and ‘typical?’ You don’t see red flags? We are able to see what you don’t see…sometimes it matters what the agreement says but also what it does NOT say.
We will also take a look at the termination provisions and general expectations in your medical contract.
#1 – No clear termination provisions
What happens when or if you want to leave the position and move on? How do you handle this, and how does the employer handle this? Those details need to be clearly spelled out. If they are not, you could find yourself in the middle of a very unpleasant situation — legally, emotionally, or financially. We have seen many more agreements in recent months that limit WHEN the physician can terminate. There may be no termination provisions by you for the first few years. This may lock you into a potentially bad situation if you cannot get out.
#2 – No clear definition of compensation
If your compensation is based on salary, how does it change over time?
This may need to be clearly spelled out in the agreement depending on the situation. If there is a bonus provision, how does it work? When is it paid? What are the policies around payment? Are there reports that are offered to track your performance?
Sometimes these are discretionary bonuses, meaning that you get it only if the employer wants to give it. That may not be something you can change in the contract. The bonus issue is not typically a landmine area, but it is an opportunity for you to ask some clarifying questions during your contract negotiation and due diligence.
#3 – No clear details about how malpractice insurance is paid
This is yet another area that you absolutely want to be spelled out in the contract. Additionally, how is tail insurance covered? We are seeing many agreements lately with the word ‘IF’ – IF the insurance is this type then this is what happens…well, what if it isn’t? Then what? The malpractice insurance is an important aspect of the contract and it needs to be clearly laid out. They type, the limits, and what happens if the relationship is severed for any situation.
#4 – No clarity on how bonuses are paid on termination
If you are terminated, will you receive your bonus? How much will it be? When will you receive it?
This may not seem important at the beginning of your employment because you are naturally not thinking about termination then. But it does happen, and you need to think ahead so you are not caught off guard in the event you leave voluntarily or are terminated.
Understand the termination provisions and how they play into your post-termination pay and benefits.
We’ve taken far too many calls from physician employees who feel like they’ve been wronged at the end of a relationship. Being ‘screwed over’ and not understanding the details in the agreement may be two different things. The agreement is for these things so you need to know what it says (and what it doesn’t say!).
#5 – No clear expectations or details on your schedule and location
The agreement should clearly state where and when you are working. Location should not be open or determined by the group or employer at a later time. The decision on where to work should be a core function on the agreement, and changes should be with your approval.
You trade your time for money and the details on your time should be clear. Forget words like ‘minimums’ or ‘at least’ as they are not specific. They are not clear about how much you will work, just a floor. Have specifics if possible, on the days of the week and hours of the day. Of course, the call should be detailed, defined, capped, and approved by you if over a predetermined cap.
#6 – Benefits Benefits Benefits!
Benefits can be up to 20% or more of the financial impact of the contract. Understand the benefits offered, even though they are not often in the agreement. Knowing when they start, as well as the details around them can help you more fully evaluate the opportunity compared to others. An offer with a salary of $200,000 vs one with $180,000 is not always the ‘best’ financial offer…know these important details and what questions should be asked during the interview or negotiation processes.
#7 – Timing, Credentialing, and start dates
Understand the credentialing requirements and the employer’s proposed start date. If you are planning on starting employment on September 1st, but there are delays in your credentialing, it’s possible you could be sitting on the side-lines for 30 days or more, which could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. It could be your fault, or just the ball being dropped by the employer. Keep on top of those credentialing and licensing requirements!
#8 – Restrictions Being Clear, and Fair.
You have all heard about the dreaded noncompete. These vary dramatically from market to market, state to state, and specialty to specialty. You need to know what the restrictions are when they are in place, and if you have any flexibility in this provision. Of course, doing your best due diligence and having the right questions to ask can be very important in this portion. We, unfortunately, speak with physicians often about their dissatisfaction with their job, but they feel powerless in their ability to leave and find something better for them with the non-compete they agreed to years ago.