Dentistry and the bonus culture

Around the country, practice principals and practice managers face a dilemma.

Should they give their staff a bonus this year? Ever since Scrooge looked into the future and changed his ways, something extra at Christmas has become the norm. For Bob Cratchit, it was a prize turkey (not the little one either). For posties it can be a bottle of wine on the doorstep.

For bankers, it’s a Porsche (or two).

What should dental practices give their staff? A monetary gift will undoubtedly be appreciated, but who sets the value? Should the part-time receptionist get the same, more or less than the better-paid hygienist? Should the scale of payment relate to the hours they work, their salary or their length of service? Is it fair to give a hard-working member of staff who has worked exceptionally through the year the same as somebody who has just done enough not to get sacked?

And what is a worthwhile bonus anyway? If it doesn’t get into double figures, it will look stingy but paying 20 practice staff £25 each is a considerable outlay. And, of course it will be taxable and subject to national insurance contributions.

Perhaps gifts would be better? So-called ‘trivial benefits’ such as cheap wines, spirits or chocolates may be exempt from tax. But don’t people get enough of those at Christmas anyway?

There’s always the option of the collective bonus in the form of a meal out or the Christmas party. That sounds enticing, until you begin to organise it. Where to go and when? A dental nurse doesn’t drink and probably won’t enjoy it. The associate dentist is a vegetarian. A hygienist has an allergy to nuts. My solution is simple.

On the last working day before Christmas, staff are given the afternoon off. I then consume a large box of chocolates and a bottle of wine – it’s my bonus!

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