The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has highlighted a locum agency’s claim that some of its clients will only offer shifts to pharmacists who are prepared to miss lunch as a further example as to why the Safer Pharmacies Charter is urgently needed. Adequate rest is one of the basic safety standards in the charter.
On the agency’s online diary system, which allows locums to specify their availability, it clearly states that, ‘lunch preferences reduce the number of vacancies offered.’ This implies that those who specify that they want to have a break, may not get offered employment.
Paul Day, Director of the PDA, and National Officer of the PDA Union, said, ‘A ‘race to the bottom’ is where workers or organisations agree to accept lower and lower standards in order to secure work. If locums must agree to give up having adequate rest in order to secure a shift, then what’s next? What other safety standards will they need to agree to miss, in order to earn a living?
‘This is unacceptable. Having adequate rest is not only a feature of running a safe pharmacy, it is also an employment right in the UK. Denial of a break is a breach of the Working Time Regulations. This also sounds like a policy that may disproportionately disadvantage those who are pregnant or who may need a break due to a disability, both of which are protected characteristics in law.
‘This agency claims that saying you don’t mind missing lunch makes it more likely its clients will employ you. This appears to be dictated by the employment policies of the clients and to be in direct contravention of the law.’
Paul concluded, ‘Any contractor using this agency should come clean if it’s them that is deciding who to employ on the basis of agreement to miss adequate rest periods. I expect patients and the regulator would want to know which contractors are employing locums on this basis.’