PDA highlights safety issue as locums encouraged to miss lunch

THE Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has highlighted a locum agency’s claim that some of its clients would only offer shifts to pharmacists who were prepared to miss lunch.

On the agency’s online diary system, which allows locums to specify their availability, it states: “lunch preferences reduce the number of vacancies offered”, which, says the PDA, implies that those who specified that they wanted to have a break, may not get offered employment, and that pharmacists who didn’t mind missing lunch were more likely to be employed.

This appeared to be “dictated by the employment policies of the clients and to be in direct contravention of the law” explained the PDA.

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.

“Any contractor using this agency should come clean if it’s them that is deciding who to employ on the basis of an agreement to miss adequate rest periods. I expect patients and the regulator would want to know which contractors are employing locums on this basis.”

For more information about the PDA’s Safer Pharmacies Charter, visit the safer pharmacies charter.

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