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Are Associate Dentists Workers under the Equality Act 2010?

The long standing debate amongst lawyers in respect  of whether ‘Associate Dentists’ were workers under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) has had some clarification over the last couple of years.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the legislation, a worker under the 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 to someone who is not a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual.

The recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision in ‘Community Dental Centres Ltd –v- Dr G Sultan-Darmon’ dealt with the definition of worker under the ERA and it was held that as a result of the claimant (a dentist) having an unfettered right to appoint a substitute for any reason without sanction he was not a worker. However is the situation any different under the Equality Act 2010 (EQA)?

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

I have recently succeeded in proving not only that an associate dentist was a worker for the purposes of pregnancy discrimination but that the termination of her contract was a result of her pregnancy. The said associate only worked with one practice, for all intents and purposes, she was personally required to carry out the work and the contract contained a substitution (locum) clause.

The said locum clause has been previously exercised for maternity cover and she was able to demonstrate that she did not have 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 atsamira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk


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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