It should be so simple. You’re new to the dental industry, don’t have time for regular hours due to your personal life, or just want to pick up a few extra shifts to earn some income. So, you offer your dental services to local practices as an independent contractor. But this seemingly innocent scenario of traditional temp work can have potentially serious side effects.
In reality, no temporary worker in the dental industry can be classified as an independent contractor. At worst, it could end in bankruptcy and financial ruin. Classifying yourself correctly is absolutely vital.
The result of working as an independent contractor could be devastating, and not just because tax authorities will immediately see a red flag. These are three ways in which traditional temp work, in an independent contractor function, puts you (the employee) at risk.
1. Getting Hurt on the Job
As an independent contractor, you don’t have worker’s compensation insurance. If you hurt yourself on the job, no one but you is responsible for the medical costs. You will need to pay for any direct and indirect costs that result from the accident.
For example, imagine walking into a dental office in the morning for a temporary shift. You slip on the wet and freshly cleaned floor. You break a wrist, which means you might need surgery and cannot work for a few weeks.
Without worker’s compensation insurance, you will be responsible for the costs in two important ways:
- First, you’ll need to pay for medical expenses associated with the treatment.
- Second, you’ll lose your wages until you’re clear to work, with no means of recompense.
2. Getting a Patient Hurt on the Job
A lack of worker’s compensation insurance can come with problems for your own bills. Now, imagine how much worse it could get if the afflicted party is not you but a patient you worked with instead. If something you did directly or indirectly caused harm to a patient, there is no protection.
For example, consider the following scenario. You take a temp job at a dental office for the day and assist the dentist with a routine procedure. Unfortunately, a few days later, that patient contracts a significant infection that makes her unable to work and requires extensive medical work.
If that patient decides to sue the dental office for medical malpractice, you may be named in the lawsuit because you were responsible for sterilizing the instruments used. Without professional liability insurance, you’ll need to pay immediately to get legal representation. You also pay significantly more if the judge rules in favor of the patient.
3. Crossing the Line to Employee
Finally, it’s deceptively easy to cross the line between independent contractors and employees, which is one major reason why temporary workers in the dental industry should never be classified as contractors. If you cross that line, additional financial responsibility may come your way.
Suppose you continue to accept traditional temp work from the same dental office for similar time frames and pay. In that case, the American IRS or Canadian CRA will almost certainly determine that the working relationship between the dental professional and dentist warrants reclassification to employee status. If that’s the case, as it was in a recent story we shared, the employee will be responsible for filing a different type of tax return.
The most significant downside of this action is for the dentist’s office. But it also becomes complicated for employees. Most importantly, it’s another reason why crossing this line is something that should always be avoided.
How to Avoid Professional Risk in the Dental Industry Without Losing Your Flexibility
Anyone working in the dental industry and choosing to work as an independent contractor faces these risks of traditional temp work. It’s the wrong choice to make, and its consequences can be devastating.
Fortunately, there are solutions available to retain your professional flexibility as a dental assistant, hygienist, or front office staff while minimizing risks. Among them is finding work through WORKFORCE, a staffing agency designed to streamline the relationship between professionals and the offices they work for. Learn more about how it works, and then sign up to test out our platform for yourself.