A production-based compensation formula can usually take care of the pay issues involved with part-time work, but you still need to decide how much participation your group requires to merit a partner’s voting rights (and full voting rights should come with a full share of fixed overhead charges). Looking at how part-time practice affects overhead costs, revenue and compensation are keys to setting the parameters within your group. I can’t imagine allowing a physician working less than half-time to maintain partnership status, except maybe for a senior doctor phasing down his or her career.
Again, your group must decide what level of participation you require to maintain partnership status a decision that’s much less sensitive if made when no partner is seeking to cut back. Giving a half-time physician half a vote usually doesn’t provide a solution. In, say, a five-partner group with four full partners and one partner with half a vote, the half-time partner essentially has a full vote when the group’s bylaws require only a simple majority to pass a measure. Any many practices rarely vote anyway, instead only acting by consensus. In that case, the part-time doctor effectively has a full vote.
Framework & flexibility
While it’s good to establish a framework, detailing every scenario simply won’t work. Different part-time situations create different needs. A senior doctor phasing down, a young physician wanting to work four days a week and a colleague facing a permanent health or disability problem each present different challenges to the group. Don’t create a policy that excessively narrows your options. When developing your policy, avoid lumping close-ended periods of reduced activity into it. Treat leaves of-absence, sabbaticals, maternity leave and other defined, short terms differently than indefinite part-time participation.
A promising young partner who wants to work fewer hours for several years until his/her children reach school age represents a different situation than a doctor who just doesn’t want to pursue medicine full-time.
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