The unions further added that many community pharmacies have significant challenges with establishing social distancing for safe working in a service that requires most members of the team to be in close proximity to patients. Employees, locums and patients all need to know that community pharmacy is a safe place (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images).

Two trade unions on Thursday (May 14) urged the government to facilitate talks on workplace safety for pharmacists.

In a joint letter to Health & Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) and Union of shop, Distributive and allied workers (Usdaw) have urged him to facilitate tripartite talks.

The unions expect discussion between the government, community pharmacy employers, and the trade unions to agree safe working practices across the sector.

The unions have opined: “With increasing strains on PPE supplies and especially after the prime ministers announcement of changes to the lockdown rules in England, urgent discussions are needed to consider in much more detail the question of how the safety of staff working in community pharmacies can be maintained.”

They further added that many community pharmacies have significant challenges with establishing social distancing for safe working in a service that requires most members of the team to be in close proximity to patients. Employees, locums and patients – all need to know that community pharmacy is a safe place.

Meanwhile, PDA has also urged pharmacy teams to join trade unions as health and safety at work issues become higher profile.

PDA has stated in a statement: “As health and safety risks in pharmacies increase due to the relaxation of the Covid-19 lockdown in England, and employees may need to challenge the safety of their workplaces, the PDA are recommending all members of the pharmacy team to join a trade union in order to have an independent, expert voice at work.”

Its chair Mark Koziol said: “…There are a plethora of organisations in pharmacy and each has a role to play. It is critical, however, that the conversation about health and safety in the workplace involves the right stakeholders. It must be those who have proven expertise and a legitimate mandate under employment legislation.

“The views of employees, as represented by independent trade unions needs to be in the heart of those discussions.  If the pharmacy team still feel unsafe at work it will be us they come to for advice and it will be us that will potentially support claims against employers.”

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