Claire Bennett, employment lawyer and BDA Advisor, looks back at the start of the crisis and how we’ve been supporting members during the pandemic.
A brave new world for dentistry, as record-breaking numbers of members reach out to us for advice
March through July of this year were the busiest months of my working life. I am an employment lawyer, and before the pandemic I spent the majority of my time advising members on a complex but familiar set of legal issues. Then the pandemic broke out, a national lockdown was announced and all our lives changed profoundly.
"At last count, our advice team had replied to 19,555 emails since March, an unprecedented number."
Suddenly, our members needed clear and comprehensive advice, but the initial lack of established guidance made this really challenging. By the third week of lockdown, our phones were ringing off the hook. A big part of my job became trying to help alleviate some of our members’ worry and concern. My work days got longer. My lunch breaks got shorter. Some days I was honestly forgetting to eat.
Like many other families, we were also dealing with the challenges of home-schooling. I am lucky my husband was able to step in and do so much of the home-schooling and childcare. Several times I was on the phone advising a member on a complex query, when I would hear war break out between my two sons down the hall and my husband intervening to restore order!
Resolving members’ issues
Our members have continued to come to us for advice on non-COVID related legal issues through this time too of course. For example, I recently supported an associate who was stuck in what they felt was an intractable dispute with a practice owner. It took a little over six weeks to reach a resolution. During this time my lengthy and wide-ranging communications with the member, included three phone calls, each over an hour long, and 37 emails addressing various aspects of the case.
I was pleased to be able to resolve this contentious situation, and that I was able to help both the associate and the practice owner to move on. In this way, I fight hard for each member I represent and I know my colleagues do too. At last count, our advice team had replied to 19,555 emails since March, an unprecedented number. This shows how hard we’re working on members’ behalf at this challenging time.
Supporting more dentists than ever
"Over 30,000 people downloaded our toolkit for returning to work."
At nearly three millions visits, our website has been a hub for dentists all over the country during the pandemic. Over 8,000 people watched our CEO Martin Woodrow’s weekly video updates and over 30,000 people downloaded our toolkit for returning to work. Our
Live Updates webpage meanwhile continues to provide everyone in the profession with the most up-to-date possible information.
Thankfully, the volume of calls has now dropped to a more manageable level. Our email triaging system is helping to ensure that we’re answering members’ questions in order of urgency. We’re still seeing spikes in our workload, as the situation evolves, but I’m glad that the breakneck speed of the first few months seems to be behind us. It wasn’t sustainable. Now I’m back to almost regular working hours. I’m speaking to members every day and helping to solve their problems. It’s not business as usual yet, but what is right now?
Employment lawyer and BDA Advisor