The question of whether a GP partner can work outside of his or her practice, and under what constraints, is a common one. A survey by Pulse reveals GP partners have seen their pay drop by an average of 4%, so topping up earnings with private work can be an appealing option.
Typical scenarios include:
- A part time partner who wishes to work elsewhere in their remaining sessions
- A full time partner who wishes to work elsewhere during their annual leave
If you have a Partnership Deed
For practices with a Partnership Deed, it should clearly state what the agreed rules are, along with all associated obligations and restrictions. It should also make clear the implications of breaching such obligations, for example potential financial penalties and what may ultimately be grounds for expulsion.
A well drafted deed should include:
- A clause requiring that the partners need to give their approval for any outside work to take place
- Limitations on any such work, including the number of hours that can be done, the location, the type of work, etc
- The need to pool any unapproved outside income
- The need for any partner working elsewhere to pay back a proportion of their medical defence cover
- An obligation to act in the best interests of the partnership at all times
One area that can cause some confusion is when senior employees are called ‘partners’ - one example being a ‘salaried partner’. In these instances, you will need to refer back to the individual’s employment contract. (You can read more about the differences between a salaried and fixed share partner here - Salaried vs Fixed Share Partners).
What happens if you bend the rules?
Another area where partnerships can sometimes run into problems is when they have previously allowed partners to work elsewhere in breach of the Partnership Deed. In these cases, it is unlikely that these clauses can then be relied upon in the future.
The practice may be deemed to have varied the deed and it would be wise to seek legal advice on how best to move forward.
If you don’t have a Partnership Deed
If no deed is in place, then the answer falls to the 1890 Partnership Act. While the act itself has little to say on the subject of working outside of the practice, it does state that partners cannot compete with the partnership and must act in good faith at all times.
It is unlikely that these obligations would be breached by a moonlighting partner but it would need to be judged on a case by case basis. It would also be very difficult and expensive to try to enforce these obligations.
The best protection for your business will always be to have a Partnership Deed in place that you can rely on and which clearly sets out all obligations and sanctions. If you don’t have a deed, or it is lacking, or out of date, then seek the advice of an experienced legal team.
For more information, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email [email protected]