Working conditions for dental hygienists in the US are sometimes less than ideal. Most dental hygienists work as at-will, part-time employees. These employees don’t usually have access to the same benefits and job security as full-time employees. For us, this type of insecurity goes hand-in-hand with the job title and we accept it as it is.
As a result, hygienists find themselves in compromising situations due to the lack of job security. Therefore, dental hygiene is a very transient field, with an average 7-15 year career longevity.
Imagine for a moment though, working part-time as a hygienist and still enjoying full benefits and job security. The first thing you need of course, is a written contract. But there’s more!
Imagine also that the small business owners and HR folks at corporate don’t need to bother about how much vacation or sick leave to allow, since it’s federally mandated. Keep reading to learn about the other enviable working conditions for dental hygienists in Germany and Switzerland.
Job Security for Dental Hygienists
Imagine having access to legal representation when you have been unfairly treated at work. That’s exactly what Arbeitnehmer Rechtsschutz (Employee Rights Protection) insurance is. Being a contracted employee already comes with a lot of benefits, including protection from your employer firing you so easily. But having this insurance policy, for which you pay a small amount monthly, gives you even more peace of mind.
Below are some other things to keep in mind about working conditions for dental hygienists.
Contracts for Dental Hygienists
- Your contract should be clear for you to understand. But don’t worry if there are things that you don’t quite get. The law still protects you. Not everything in your work contract is necessarily allowed by law anyway.
- Your contract should include the salary amount, work days and times, a general job duties description, insurance information and sick leave information.
- Hygienists work a normal 8-5 working day, unless they make other arrangements.
- The probationary period is normally 3 months. However, some companies like to extend it to 6 months because that gives them more flexibility and could possibly help them to be extra sure of the fit. If offered a 6-month probationary period, you may wish to politely ask the employer why the probationary period needs to be so long. The response will help you understand what kind of company you are dealing with.
- Hygienists on a work permit or visa will work under a dentist. Germany only has one case of independent practice, and it seems they don’t want more. Switzerland allows independent practice, but you must have a permit.
Stable Salaries for Dental Hygienists
- Salaries are stable which means you can expect the same amount every month of the year.
- Hygienists are monthly salaried employees. Some doctors do pay hourly, but they still need to deliver a consistent salary, otherwise there may be tax repercussions. When offered an hourly salary, it would be wise to know what the employer’s intentions are if your day falls apart.
- Commission is possible, depending upon your work permit. If you receive a commission based offer, always check the terms to see whether it is based on production, or on collections.
- Fifteen minute paid prep time before the day starts, and breakdown time at the end of the day, should be included in the monthly salary. This wouldn’t apply for hourly arrangements, of course.
- You will receive a monthly salary payment, via direct deposit in the local currency.
- The salary in Germany should be based on the 30/30/30 split. In Switzerland, it is determined by a fixed list by the SSO for hygienists, based on years of work experience.
- Your salary deposit date should be clearly stated in your contract. In Switzerland, the usual date is the 25th of the month. In Germany, it can vary, but is usually the last day of the month.
- Your medical insurance deducts directly from your salary and the employer contributes to half of the premium.
- Unemployment insurance is around 70% of your gross income.
Working Environment for Dental Hygienists
- You are a respected professional both inside and outside the office.
- The patients refer to you as Mr. or Ms. and would not dare call you by your first name; except for the cheeky ones, or those whom you have befriended!
- Whether you schedule your own patients, or the front office does it, will depend on the practice.
- In Germany, as of the writing of this article, administering local anesthesia is against the rules. So don’t bother to ask! In Switzerland, you are allowed to administer LA if you have a permit. You can apply for a permit.
- Your schedule can vary. In Switzerland, 1 hour is the norm in private practices. In Germany, some have one patient per hour, 45 minutes for recalls, or an arrangement where you will schedule the appointments, and allot whatever time you need.
- Both Germany and Switzerland have nice practice management software, similar to what we have in the US. The practice management software and is not easy to learn in a foreign language, but it is possible.
- Parostatus.de is an example of periocharting software that has recently grown in popular in Germany.
- Some offices may still use charts, in addition to being paperless.
- Working with the German software requires an understanding of the insurance codes.
- Lunch is normally 1 hour, but can vary based on how many hours you work in the day.
- Many offices have fully equipped kitchen areas for lunch. Cutlery and crockery are usually provided, so you could even cook your food there.
- In Germany, an employee may not work more than 6 hours straight without a break.
Exceptional Illness coverage
- Sick days are mandated by law and paid for by the insurance company. This means that your employer will pay your normal salary and the insurance company will reimburse them.
- In order for the insurance company to reimburse your employer, you must send them valid documentation to verify your illness, either by post or uploaded.
Traditional Dress Code
- Dental offices dress in white for regular treatment and green for surgery (like old hospital movies). Your pants and shoes should be white and professional.
- The office provides your scrub top and you are responsible for your pants and shoes.
- You may not leave the office with your work clothes on. You must leave them at the office. Top tip: allow yourself a few minutes clothes changing time, when trying to make it to work on time!
- Instrument sharpening time is working time and must also be paid.
Wonderful Vacation Allowance
This is probably the most enviable of working conditions for dental hygienists.
- Vacation in both countries is federally mandated at a minimum of 4 weeks. Most people get 5 or 6 weeks. The amount of vacation time on offer is an indication of how generous an offer it really is.
- Vacation can be taken in blocks or when the office closes or, if you are really fortunate, whenever you like.
- Practices usually discuss the vacation schedule at the start of the year. So take some time at the end of the year to sit and think about your vacation plans for the next year. It doesn’t have to be concrete, but it helps with the office planning when they know everyone’s plans.
As you can see, it is quite normal under such stable working conditions for a dental hygienist to work as such until they retire. This doesn’t mean that the working conditions are perfect, but they do provide a good measure of security. They allow a very nice work-life balance. They also allow you to worry about other things in life and not whether or not you will have a job when you walk into work the next day.
Featured Photo by Quang Anh Ha Nguyen from Pexels