Employment Contracts for Physical Therapists

Jun 19, 2019
5 min read
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A physical therapist employment contract clarifies expectations for both employers and employees and acts to establish their working relationship before the first day of work begins.

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A physical therapist employment contract may sound like a simple enough document, but it’s incredibly important. It clarifies expectations for both employers and employees and acts to establish their working relationship before the first day of work begins.

“Having a document in place protects both you and the employer,” says Daniel Goodrich, Esq. “More importantly, it gives you both tools to take whatever verbal conversation you had and memorialize it into an agreement that you can always look back on when looking at compensation or performance evaluations.”

“The agreement establishes the relationship,” says Brett Kestenbaum, PT, DPT. “It sets the expectations for both the employee and the employer.”

“Once it’s done, everybody understands specifically what the role of the job is, and what the expectations are for both the employer, from their perspective, and then from the employee’s perspective as well.”

Watch the video for a detailed walkthrough of our sample employment contract, which you can download below!

While employment agreements might vary in things like fonts, headings, and specific order, the basic content of a physical therapy employment agreement should stay consistent. Every employment agreement should contain:

  1. The date covered by the agreement
  2. The duties of the position
  3. Compensation for the position
  4. Conditions for termination of employment

Read on for our breakdown of each segment!

Dates

This one seems simple, but it’s always worth double-checking. Does the date on the agreement match the date you’ve agreed to start working, or does it fall before or after?

Scope of Duties

There should be a section in your contract outlining the scope of your duties as a physical therapist. This should contain information about the position such as whether it is full-time, part-time, per diem, salaried or hourly, and so on.

Are you expected to work 9-5 Monday through Friday? “Occasional” Saturdays? What does “occasional” mean, and how often will that be needed of you? These are important things to have in writing before you find yourself – for instance – working Monday through Friday and every Saturday. (Obviously, that’s a worst-case scenario, but this is why setting expectations for your schedule is crucial.) Beware of schedule creep!

The same goes for scope of duties. How much of your day-to-day will be clinical care, and how much will be taken up by administrative or other duties? This doesn’t just mean things like documentation; it can also be activities in sales, marketing, or in training practice staff. If those are aspects of the job that you’re interested in – perhaps one day you plan to open your own practice – that’s fantastic! However, if you’re focused on practicing physical therapy and only physical therapy, vague generalizations about the extent of your administrative duties might be a red flag, or at least something to clarify with your employer.

Whether you’re on the lookout for scope creep or schedule creep, keep an eye out for words and phrases like “occasional," “whatever reasonable,” and so forth: what seems reasonable to your employer may be beyond what you expect in the position. These aren’t necessarily red flags, but they are places where you will want to ask for clarification.

Compensation

Salary isn’t the only form of compensation that you'll find in your contract, but it is the one that should always be included. What are you getting paid for your work? Is it fair – based on the position, your experience, and the location of the practice? By the time you’re signing an employment contract, it’s likely that you’ve already negotiated your salary; however, make sure to double-check the salary listed in the contract against what you’ve negotiated with your employer.

Of course, salary isn’t all compensation covers. And if your base salary seems low, perhaps it’s because part of your compensation comes in the form of performance or production bonuses. If so, those will be outlined in your contract. Are you going to be marketing for the clinic, or going into the community to give talks? This additional work might be compensated by your employer as well.

And then there’s benefits, the holy grail of a full-time job. As additional compensation, this covers everything from health insurance to paid time off and may vary wildly between states and employers. Other possible benefits include things like continuing education support, malpractice insurance, and family leave. Again, if you’ve negotiated these benefits with your employer ahead of time, make sure you recognize what’s in your contract.

One final, crucial aspect of the compensation section in your employment contract? Information about raises. It’s useful to have raise schedules outlined in your contract since, as Goodrich points out, in a busy practice it’s easy for that conversation to fall through the cracks. However, if it’s scheduled in your contract, it’s much easier for you and your employer to schedule that meeting.

As with every aspect of a physical therapist employment contract, the key elements here are expectations and clarification.

Termination clauses

A solid employment contract will likely also include language around termination of employment. This means information regarding whether your employment is at-will (meaning your employment can be terminated by you or your employer for any reason) but also instructions around how you may leave the job, such as notice periods or non-compete agreements.

Understanding Your Physical Therapist Employment Contract

We’ve covered the bare bones of a physical therapist employment contract, from scope of duties to compensation. You can download our employment contract template below to compare to the one you’ve received from your employer!

Want to reach out to Daniel Goodrich, Esq.? You can email him at danny@atvirtualcounsel.com, or head to VirtualCounsel itself.

Got any questions? Comment below!

About Brett Kestenbaum

As a physical therapist myself, I understand the general struggles of life after graduation, and the importance of focused attention on our patients. As Chief Operating Officer at CovalentCareers, I am afforded the opportunity to connect with thousands of physical therapists around the country. My goal is to improve the accessibility of information and careers for healthcare practitioners. Feel free to message me at any time! Always happy to connect.