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Are ‘Associate Dentists’ Workers under the Equality Act 2010?

The question of whether ‘Associate Dentists’ are workers under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) is one that is often put to us as Employment Lawyers and is particularly pertinent when looking at whether discrimination claims can be pursued. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the legislation, a worker under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (“ERA”) is defined as someone who has entered into or works under: 

(a) A contract of employment or 

(b) Any other contract (express or implied) to perform personally, any work or service for someone who is not a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual. 

After the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision in ‘Community Dental Centres Ltd –v- Dr G Sultan-Darmon’ it is more or less accepted that unless a dentist has an employment contract and not an Associate Agreement that they will not be deemed to be employees. The basis for the Sultan-Darmon decision was that the dentist had an unfettered right to appoint a substitute for any reason without sanction, therefore he was not a worker. 

This begs the question of whether the situation is any different under the Equality Act 2010 (EQA)? 

Well, the term “Employment” under the EQA is more widely defined and the key concept is for there to be ‘a contract personally to do work’. 

On a number of occasions I have successfully argued that associate dentists are workers for the purpose of the EQA and therefore allowed to pursue discrimination claims. This is primarily on the basis that most associates work for one practice and, for all intents and purposes, are personally required to carry out the dental work. The fact there is a substitution clause does not make a difference where the associate can demonstrate that it was not a genuine right of substitution

So it seems that unless you are an associate who is operating a business like structure, where you are working for a number of practices and have other locums who substitute for you on a regular basis and/or without the express permission of the practice owner you are more likely than not to be a worker under the EQA. 

If you are currently dealing with an issue relating to associate dentists and worker status please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 or alternatively at samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk


Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here. 

Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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