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Pharmacy Hours Reduction – Advice for Relief Pharmacists at Boots

Relief Pharmacists at Boots are a population of employees who may have specific concerns about the consequences of the company’s pharmacy opening hours reduction initiative.

Sun 30th January 2022 PDA Union

Every situation can be different and will need to be considered on its own facts. The general advice for all Relief Pharmacists is to join the PDA to access the full benefits of membership and obtain individual support if required.  Multiple press reports of Boots being put up for sale are another good reason to join the largest independent pharmacist union in the UK.

What is my role?

The written contract document is only part of any individual’s employment contract, and for example, some pharmacists may have written contracts describing their job role as “Relief” when in fact they have had the same working pattern and location for some or all of their week for long periods.  There have been reports of individuals being asked by management to classify themselves as either Relief or based in a particular store so that they can be taken through one or other process.  The PDA caution any employee not to agree to something which might ultimately disadvantage them later on.

Fair treatment for Pharmacists working on Relief contracts

The PDA has heard of inconsistent experiences from Relief Pharmacists in the current pharmacy hours reduction initiative. Some Relief Pharmacists have informed the PDA that they have been advised by management that they may already be at risk of redundancy.  Others report being told that Relief Pharmacists are out of scope and there will be no impact on them. A major concern highlighted by some Relief Pharmacists is that they have been told that in a pharmacy where operating hours are being cut, they will only be offered additional hours once any available hours have already been allocated to Pharmacists not on Relief contracts.

In any re-organisation or redundancy situation, an employer has a duty towards its employees to act fairly. As such, where a Pharmacist has a relief contract but in reality the working arrangement is of a regular nature i.e. akin to working in fixed locations, then Pharmacists in this situation who have a relief contract should be treated no less favourably than other Pharmacists. If a redundancy situation arises in a particular pharmacy, then all appropriate employees should be in a pool and a fair selection process should be carried out to determine who is retained and who is made redundant. Any management decision to resolve the future employment of one cohort of employees and then to only offer remaining hours to a secondary group would need to be justified. If Relief Pharmacists find themselves in this situation and are subsequently dismissed or resign as a result of the situation they have been placed in, then urgent advice should be sought from the PDA in respect of any potential claims for unfair dismissal (if dismissed) or constructive unfair dismissal (if considering resignation).

What to do?

PDA members should contact the Service Centre for support and any pharmacists who are not yet PDA members are encouraged to join the PDA without delay.

It is also good practice to get hold of your latest written contract of employment (ask your manager, if you don’t already have a copy) and to obtain urgent written confirmation from the line manager about what the current hours cutting initiative will mean for your future employment.  Collating details of working patterns, number of hours and locations worked over the most recent period will also equip pharmacists with facts about their current employment status to enable them to make informed decisions if / when they have alternative offers made to them by the employer.


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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

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