Joint employment of shared staff in GP practices

This is a guide for GP practices on how to employ shared staff in a joint contract between employers and the doctor.

Location: UK
Audience: GPs Practice managers
Updated: Thursday 2 May 2024
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Who might look to employ shared staff

  • If you have identified work time that is not currently being fully utilised, and which may be provided to another practice on a fee-charging basis.
  • If you have a vacancy that requires filling by your practice where you could use the services of a skilled individual without having to employ one directly.
  • If you have neighbouring practices who would like to jointly deliver a service provided by a shared staff member.
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What is a joint employee?

In a joint employment situation, an employee is appointed by more than one employer, and a joint contract of employment is held between the employee and the relevant employers.

An employee is jointly employed if their offer letter of appointment and contract of employment clearly states that they have more than one employer. The offer letter and contract would state who the employers are, eg 'Practice A and Practice B'.

An employee is not jointly employed if their contract of employment is with a single practice, even if the practice states that the employee is required to work for another practice. The joint employers should ideally set out their requirements in a service level agreement between them to avoid uncertainty and misunderstanding.


Benefits of joint employment

  • It may be easier to attract an employee with specialist skills or specialising in a niche area.
  • An employee may prefer to work full-time under a joint contract, rather than part-time for one practice and part-time for another.
  • Joint employment may allow for flexibility so that some weeks the employee dedicates more time at one practice, and at other periods, does more work at the other. For example:

    1. Different practices may have different deadlines for projects, so the employee could schedule work time as needed; at the end of the agreed period, work time split will have balanced out.

    2. It may be possible that in the course of a working day, the employee could travel to and from the two practices if operating from the same building as and when the need arises.
  • Cost savings.
  • Shared control by the joint employers, eg taking of annual leave, the work schedule.


The potential downside of joint employment

  • Overcoming practical problems - could there be confusion as to the arrangement?
  • If the two practices have completely different employment or contractual arrangements, how will they agree on the applicable terms and conditions, such as sick pay and annual leave?
  • Which collective agreements will apply?
  • Who would the employee complain to about a grievance in connection with one practice?
  • In a disciplinary situation who would manage the process and make the decisions? What if one practice wanted to issue a sanction or dismiss and the other did not?
  • Employment tribunal claims against both practices although the dispute was with one.
  • How will the practices determine their responsibilities or liabilities in the event of a dispute?
  • What happens if one of the joint employers wishes to end the arrangement, perhaps because they are no longer providing a particular service, but the other practice is? Will the latter take on full responsibility for the employee, so there is no shortfall in working hours and pay?
  • What if one employer wants to outsource the work or sell its business?