Legal tips for dealing with practice saboteurs

Sometimes when we get involved with helping a practice we find that one or more team members are either unsuited to the role they have been asked to perform or, for whatever reason, are trying to row the boat in a different direction to the principal(s).

Either behaviour will slow the growth and development of the practice (or even capsize the boat) and the practice owner has to face some hard choices and usually some expense to right the situation

Don't let saboteurs stay if they won't change. Picture by Jim Sorbie

Don’t let saboteurs stay if they won’t change. Picture by Jim Sorbie

Usually, the choices are:

  1. To performance manage the team member so they either acquire the necessary skill set and behaviours
  2. To find a way of replacing them with a new team member

I asked Sunita Jordan, Breathe’s legal eagle, for her thoughts on what the practice owner can do when it becomes clear that one of the team needs to raise their game or leave. Here’s her advice:

  • Have regular team meetings to ensure that staff know what your practice goals are and how you want to go about achieving them.
  • Have staff appraisals annually to reinforce the objectives and expectations of the business and identify any training needs the employees may have.
    At Breathe, we recommend that:
  1. Each individual has clear goals (that are measurable) specific to their role that help meet the objectives of the business for the year.
  2. Review progress with each team member regularly (not just when something goes wrong) and, ideally, at least every three months. Sometimes setting quarterly goals rather than annual goals provides more focus and makes it more likely that the business objectives will be met.
  3. Make the process a two-way conversation and always take notes and write these up.
  • If a team member needs to undergo performance management, don’t put it off. It will be a lot easier and more productive for both you and the team member if you have set clear goals and have reviewed progress. No surprises here, but do make sure that the correct disciplinary procedure is used:
  • Employees with more than two years service can bring a claim against an employer if they feel that they have been unfairly dismissed.
  • Employees with less than two years service can still bring claims of discrimination if they feel that this was the reason behind the dismissal. (We will follow this article with a more detailed guide to the disciplinary process.)
  • Before dismissing a member of staff, speak to an HR/legal professional to ensure that it is safe to do so. For the reasons outlined above, dismissing an employee who may claim there has been discrimination involved could lead to an employment tribunal claim being taken against you. The situation doesn’t have to become a costly exercise and understanding the steps (and any risks) can prevent a lot of stress and reduce the time and money spent if you have to get involved in a legal process.

Sunita also reminded us of changes which have recently come in which may affect your practice:

It has been a busy year so far for employment regulations, but here are a few of the ones which may be of particular interest to Breathe clients:

  • From 1 April 2016, the National Living Wage was introduced and therefore staff aged 25 and over must be paid a minimum of £7.20 per hour. Employees aged between 21-24 must be paid a minimum of £6.70. Other rates apply for younger workers.
  • English language proficiency regulations came into force on 1 April 2016, which will allow the GDC to assess the English language proficiency of any dentist or dental care professional before they can practice in the UK. Dentists and DCPs who apply to return to the GDC register will also have their proficiency in English language considered.
  • If you haven’t done so already, make sure that you have a workplace pension scheme – automatic enrolment has been in place for some years already, but if you haven’t been notified of your staging date, you can check it on the site. All employers, regardless of the number of staff they have, must have a workplace pension scheme set up.
  • Statutory rates for maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay have been frozen for the year so there is no increase. Statutory sick pay remains at £88.45 per week.
  • Zero hours contracts are now banned from containing an exclusivity clause, which prevents an employee from working for another employer.

For queries on any of the issues discussed above or if you would like some advice on another HR issue, please contact Sunita Jordan at


m. 07990 568909

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