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Salaried vs Fixed Share Partners

Managing partnership changes and staffing are two of the most common issues any practice will deal with and how they are handled can have long term implications, especially in relation to a new partner joining the business.

One area that can cause confusion is the difference between a ‘Salaried Partner’ and a ‘Fixed Share Partner’. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are very different and it’s important that a distinction is made.

Here, we look at the key differences and the implications they may carry for your practice.

What is a fixed share partner?

A fixed share partner is an owning partner in the business. As such, they should sign the Partnership Deed and will have whatever rights and obligations are stated therein.

  • As a partner they won’t have employment law protection
  • They will have an agreed minimum monthly income and additionally some form of profit share
  • They will share in the losses but may be indemnified against some or all of these by the other partners
  • They will have injected some capital into the business
  • They will be entitled to attend meetings and to participate in partnership decisions
  • They will have voting rights
  • They will not be controlled by other partners
  • They will be taxed as self-employed individuals
  • They will be entitled to opt in to the NHS partner pension scheme
  • They will have some ownership over the GMS contract and potentially also the PMS contract

What is a salaried partner?

In contrast, a salaried partner is normally a title given to a senior employee. As such, they won’t sign the partnership deed and will be working under some form of employment contract (even if it is called something else).

  • They will be entitled to a salary and potentially some bonuses – although usually not related to profit
  • They will have full employment law protection
  • They will be at no risk of sharing any losses
  • They shouldn’t have any voting rights in the partnership and there will be elements of control by the other (owning) partners.
  • They are taxed as an employee paying PAYE & NI
  • They are entitled to opt in to the NHS employee pension scheme
  • They will have no ownership over the GMS contract and would not normally have any interest in the PMS contract
  • They must guard against third parties regarding them as ‘real’ partners and thereby inadvertently becoming liable for the partnership debts.

Why does it matter?

Typically, what practices are trying to achieve with a Fixed Share Partner is a partner who has many of the characteristics of an employee, while a Salaried Partner will typically be an employee with some of the characteristics of a partner. The problem is that the law only recognises employees or partners, there is no middle ground.

The most important point to remember is that the title itself does not determine the real status. That can only be established by analysing the detail of the arrangement.

If a title is mismatched to the actual legal status of the person, there is a risk of creating legal uncertainty. This could lead to any number of future problems, most of which will be costly to resolve.

Our recommendations

We will consider the pros and cons of each option in a future article, but our main piece of advice for anyone considering appointing or becoming a fixed share or salaried partner, is to ensure you are clear from the outset about the outcome you are seeking to achieve.

The starting point is to decide whether you are welcoming a new partner, or a form of senior employee. All other aspects of the role flow from there, and it is important to ensure that you don’t accidentally incorporate key features of one type into the other. This is all too easily done and the consequences of getting it wrong can be serious.

If you’re going to make staffing changes, especially if those changes are to a ‘partner’ role, please make sure you seek specialist advice to ensure the arrangement is documented appropriately.

For more information, please contact Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 or email d.robertson@drsolicitors.com