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Combating wage theft: PDA assists locum pharmacists in reclaiming £65,000 in 2023

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The Pharmacists’ Defence Association stated that pharmacists and trainee pharmacists often fall victim to wage theft by employers and contractors, which involves unpaid overtime, wage deductions, and withheld payments. In 2023, the PDA aided locum pharmacists in reclaiming a sum of £65,000 in unpaid wages.

In a recent instance, the union aided a locum in recovering £8,000 owed by an employer, highlighting its ongoing commitment to assisting locums in obtaining rightful compensation for their work shifts.

According to the PDA, wage theft involves the retention of rightful wages or entitled employee benefits, including underpayment of contractual pay, omission of hours worked, or incomplete holiday compensation. This term also applies when a pharmacy contractor holds back payment for services rendered by a locum.

The PDA underscored the significance of pharmacists retaining a personal copy of their respective agreements, while highlighting the diversity of employment and locum contracts. “Contracts should define pay rates and the conditions for earning such payment. If additional work is requested by the employer, compensation should align with the contract terms or result from a separate agreement surpassing the initial terms,” the union added.

This year, the PDA initiated claims for unlawful wage deductions against a range of employers, including the NHS, major and minor pharmacy chains, and certain independent contractors.

Trainees most vulnerable to wage theft

Trainee pharmacists are frequently obligated to perform unpaid overtime, the PDA said. Typically regarded as supernumerary, trainees receive grants to cover their training expenses. If a trainee chooses to work extra hours, the PDA emphasised they should be compensated with overtime pay in accordance with their contract.”

The PDA noted another situation they have come across where trainees discover upon arriving at their placement that their employer intends to make deductions from their wages. “Trainees, often young individuals starting their careers and embarking on their first full-time job, can find themselves in a vulnerable position,” the association said.

The PDA also noted that they might feel less assured when asserting their employment rights because their designated supervisor plays a dual role as both their evaluator for successful training completion and their potential manager or employer.

“It is simply unacceptable that pharmacists are forced to battle for the retrieval of money rightfully owed to them by employers and pharmacy contractors, especially during a period marked by a cost-of-living crisis,” said Mark Pitt, PDA Director of Defence Services and PDA Union General Secretary. “Despite potential financial pressures on some pharmacies, employers remain bound by firm legal and contractual commitments to pharmacists, which must be upheld.”

The PDA recently expressed concerns about the General Pharmaceutical Council’s plan to raise registration fees for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy premises. They criticised the GPhC’s justification for the fee increase as insufficient. The union highlighted a notable level of concern indicated in its member survey responses, particularly relating to the GPhC premises in Canary Wharf.

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