Part-time Policies

May 1, 2008

I have a question regarding part-time employment in a four physician partnership. Recently one of the partners had a baby and now would like to work less. This is the first time our group has had anyone work less than full time. The physician requests no overnight call on the weekends. We want to be accomodating, but also want to protect ourselves.

Question: I have a question regarding part-time employment in a four physician partnership. Recently one of the partners had a baby and now would like to work less. This is the first time our group has had anyone work less than full time. The physician requests no overnight call on the weekends. We want to be accomodating, but also want to protect ourselves.

Answer: First, I'd suggest approaching this as an opportunity to create a policy on part-time work for the whole practice. You want to extract the issue from just this one new mom and look at the bigger picture.

It certainly is possible that others might want to go part-time to care for aging parents, have kids, move into semiretirement, whatever. So set one policy that everyone will have to live with.

Some things to consider as you create that policy:

Take a close look at your variable (changes based on productivity) versus fixed (stays the same no matter what) cost. If this physician is working part-time, will you reduce staff? Reduce the amount of space you rent? Call your malpractice carrier and see if they will offer a lower rate for part-time work (many don’t). The majority of costs in medical practice are fixed. So, what happens with a part-time worker is that the group carries the same overhead, basically, but has less income. You need a strong sense of what this would look like.

The corollaries are that the group might wish to set a minimum number of hours or some other minimum productivity level.

You’ll also need to decide how to share overhead and remunerate the part-time physician. If she carries an even share of the overhead but only works 50 percent of the time, she won’t be making much. But if she carries less overhead, the rest of you will need to take up the rest, which won't make everyone else happy. Something in the middle sometimes is best.

Call is completely a matter of negotiation, but my two cents is that everyone hates weekend night call so much, the only thing to do is continue to share it equally (as I assume you’ve been doing?). One person’s family should not take precedence over another’s, even if it has gotten bigger recently.

Again, what's most important is to remove this discussion from one personality.