PDA Union challenges pay freeze offered to Boots pharmacists


The annual pay negotiations between Boots and the Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) have been referred to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in the hope they can help the employer and employee representatives reach an agreement after Boots pharmacists were offered a pay freeze this year.


On 10th September, the PDA wrote to members who work at Boots to provide an update on the ongoing pay discussions, following the company announced that a companywide pay freeze was to be implemented with no increases made in November. The announcement reflected that negotiations were underway with the PDA Union for pharmacists covered by the PDA Union Boots recognition agreement.


As a result, further meetings have taken place with Boots with the most recent being on 24th September. Although some progress has been made to the original pay claim, details of which can be found here, it has not been possible to reach an agreement so far because of disagreements over the pay element of the claim.


Following the company’s statement and confirmation that it was, in fact, the intention to offer a 0% increase to pharmacists, the PDA Union negotiating team tabled a counter-offer designed to reflect the company’s position that it could not agree to a pay increase against the background of redundancies and uncertain economic data.


This counter-offer was for a one-off £1000 lump sum payable on 1st November to reflect the commitment and professionalism shown by members during the COVID-19 crisis and an agreement to suspend the pay discussions until January 2021 with a view to reaching an agreement for a pay increase from April 2021, in effect limiting the pay freeze to 6 months rather than 12.


In a joint statement by Boots and the PDA, Anne Higgins, Director of Stores Pharmacy, Boots UK and Paul Moloney, National Officer, PDA Union commented:


“Representatives from Boots and the PDA Union have been meeting regularly since July to hold constructive talks regarding the pay claim submitted by the PDA Union along with requests for changes to other terms and conditions of employment. The latest of these meetings was on 24th September 2020.


“Both parties acknowledge the challenge of concluding negotiations in the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic and current economic conditions, while also recognising the hard work and commitment of pharmacists during what has been an unusual and difficult time for colleagues.


“Both parties recognise that good progress has been made on some of the key issues included in the claim and the discussions have also taken into account the company’s recent statements about zero pay increases for other groups of colleagues. However, so far, it has not been possible to reach an overall agreement due to differences regarding the pay claim itself.


“The recognition agreement signed by Boots and the PDA union last year sets the framework for these discussions. Under that agreement, if differences between the company and the union remain, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), an independent public body, can be invited to assist in helping both sides to find ways of reaching an agreement.
At the conclusion of the September meeting, although both parties remain hopeful that there remains the potential to reach common ground on a number of issues, the next step in the process will be to engage ACAS for their assistance.


“It is expected this part of the process will take a few weeks but a further joint statement will be issued at the conclusion of the discussions with ACAS to update you.”


*ACAS is an independent public body that receives funding from the government. They provide free and impartial advice to employers, employees and their representatives on employment rights, best practice and policies and resolving workplace conflict.



PDAU secure pay rise for Boots pharmacists


The Pharmacist Defence Association Union (PDAU) and Boots have jointly announced further pay increases for pharmacists at the company.


The annual salary for Newly Qualified Pharmacists* (NQPs) is to be increased to £36,600** with effect from February 2020 and a further increase is to follow in the Autumn for Boots’ lowest paid pharmacists including those who are currently newly qualified.


In 2019 the PDA union and Boots held a series of talks on pharmacist pay during which the union called upon the company to work together to improve the recruitment and retention of pharmacists at the company. This measure builds on the main pay settlement announced in November and is expected to help start to achieve that objective.


With another cohort of newly qualified pharmacists due in summer 2020, who will also receive the new £36,600 rate, this could have meant no differential between those qualifying in 2019 and those qualifying in 2020. The union and company have therefore agreed that the current NQPs will receive an additional 3.8% increase in August to increase their annual salaries to £38,000. Any other pharmacists at Boots currently earning less than this figure will also have their pay increased in August.


Joint Statement – Boots UK and PDAU Joint Negotiating Body

Further to the agreements made in the 2019 pay settlement and positive ongoing discussions, it has been agreed to award a further increase to Newly Qualified Pharmacists (NQPs)


In 2019 it was negotiated that all colleagues within the bargaining unit who are substantively appointed and performing in the role will be paid at least 80% of the market rate for their role. To complete the implementation of this commitment it has been agreed that from February 2020 the salary for NQPs across Boots UK will be £36,600 pro rata. “Newly Qualified Pharmacists” are those in their first year of practice post qualification This will also be the minimum starting salary for any individual recruited into a pharmacist role.


To maintain differentials between existing colleagues and those who will be appointed as NQPs after qualifying in Summer/Autumn of 2020, the 2019-20 Newly Qualified Pharmacists and any other pharmacist whose pay is less than £38,000 pro-rata will have their pay increased to this amount in August 2020.


Both Boots UK and PDA Union believe these steps will improve the recruitment and retention of newly qualified pharmacists.


Kind regards,


Anne Higgins, Director of Stores Scotland and Northern Ireland – Boots UK
Paul Day, PDAU National Officer


The February and August increases mean that for current NQPs the overall increase to their current salary over the next eight months will be 11.8%.


Mark Pitt, Assistant General Secretary at the PDA Union explained:


“The NQP rate at Boots has remained static for many years and as part of our recognition campaign we pledged to tackle this unfairness.  We are delighted to announce that after just seven months of commencing pay negotiations at Boots, we’ve been able to agree with the company a significant pay increase of 7.6% for newly qualified pharmacists.  This will be a welcome boost for this group as they start their career journey with Boots.”


Mr Pitt concluded:


“Pharmacists can already see the benefit of PDA Union recognition in what we have achieved since we began representing Boots pharmacists last summer.  Our influence increases the more members we have, so I urge any pharmacist at Boots who has not yet joined us, to consider joining us today so we can secure even more for pharmacists”


*Newly Qualified Pharmacists” are those in their first year of practice post-qualification.

** All salaries quoted in this article are full-time equivalents based on a 40 hour week.  Part-timers are paid pro-rata salaries.


PDA Union agree historic pay deal for Boots pharmacists

Boots Management Services Ltd and the PDA Union have reached agreement on a pay deal for Boots pharmacist. The highlight of the pay settlement is that the total payroll cost for those in the Bargaining Unit (excluding Pre-Registration Pharmacists) will be increased by 1.8%.


The deal applies to Boots pre-registration pharmacists, pharmacists (including Relief Pharmacists, Care Services Pharmacists, Advanced Practitioners, and Specialist Practitioners) and pharmacist store managers in the bargaining unit for which PDAU is recognised.


The key points in the settlement are outlined below.


For the 2019/20 pay settlement, Boots have confirmed that all colleagues within the bargaining unit who are substantively appointed and performing in the role will be paid at least within the market range for their role. In 2018 those under the range “minimum” received a 3% pay increase but this could have still theoretically left them paid less than the ‘minimum’ range after pay review. This commitment means the company will pay at least 80% of the market median salary for the role.


Boots have reaffirmed their commitment to providing long-term fulfilling and enriching careers for pharmacists, with the opportunity to develop and progress over time. Boots will commit to enabling pharmacists to better understand the types of considerations that could support their development and pay progression relative to the market range in the future. This was the company’s response in answer to PDAU request that all pharmacists’ salary should be at least the market median rate within 5 years of appointment to that role. Whilst progression through a pay range depends on a number of factors, the PDAU have said they are disappointed that pharmacists do not have a clear pathway to achieve their salary expectations for the role.


Boots have committed to developing further guidance and insight into this important topic. In the worst-case scenario, a pharmacist could work at Boots for their entire career whilst still not securing above-market-median pay. As with several aspects of the pay settlement, the PDAU have said they will be returning to this point in next year’s pay negotiations. Pay review letters will be available to individuals before the November payday. Colleagues will be able to access their letter via the benefits box system on 14/11/2019. The Benefits Box is available here. In previous years some letters were received after the new pay reached individual’s bank accounts and the PDAU wanted to make sure people were told about any changes to their pay in a timely manner.


The market ranges for roles within the bargaining unit will be available on Pharmacy Unscripted in line with the November pay cycle, from which colleagues will be able to calculate their position on the market range. During the recognition ballot process, the company began making pay scales more accessible to pharmacists which is a further benefit of this process. The PDAU have said they encourage all pharmacists to calculate what percentage of the market rate they are being paid. The market rate is the median average that other employers pay for comparative roles across the UK irrespective of individual experience, so being paid below the market median rate means pharmacists are being paid a below-market-average salary against comparable pharmacy employers.


A colleague’s performance rating will reflect their performance. The relative distribution should reflect business performance and individual performance. This means there should be no forced distribution of performance ratings. PDAU has previously drawn attention to the fact that Boots have always denied that forced distribution is applied and any examples given by pharmacists about this are due to company processes not being followed properly.


It is confirmed that holiday pay is calculated to reflect the average actual pay. This means that when a colleague takes their contractual annual leave (including service enhancements but excluding bank holidays), their holiday pay will be supplemented for any overtime (including Extra Duties and Lunchtime Payments) worked during the reference period. The current reference period is the 13 weeks prior to the date of the holiday being taken, which will be updated in line with the forthcoming legislative change in 2020. The supplement is visible on the payslip as “HPSupp”. This means that by claiming for any additional hours that pharmacists work they won’t just be paid for those hours, they will also be increasing their rate of holiday pay.


All company-assigned training should be undertaken during working hours. If this is not possible colleagues will be entitled to receive pay or time owed in lieu for time spent undertaking that training, to be arranged locally in conjunction with the line manager.


A joint working party will be established to review data on equality of pay between colleagues with different diversity characteristics currently recorded, such as age and gender. This means the PDAU will be able to look at the consequences of the company’s approach to pay management and identify any potential areas for detailed analysis before deciding if any action is needed.


The contractual working hours for pre-registration pharmacists only will be harmonised across the UK at 37.5 hours per week, with no loss of pay, to reflect the unique funding arrangements for pre-registration pharmacist salaries. This will mean a reduction of 2.5 hours per week FTE for those who work in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Standard FTE working hours for newly qualified and other pharmacists will not be affected by this change. Until this pay claim pre-registration pharmacists were for many years required to work 40 hours per week in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while those in Scotland worked 37.5. This doesn’t just equalise the hours, it also means pre-registration trainees in England, Wales & Northern Ireland will get an extra 2.5 hours per week to study (or whatever else they choose to do with their time). This one-off change to harmonise hours across the UK for pre-registration pharmacists is also equivalent to a 6.7% increase to the hourly rate of pay for English, Welsh and Northern Irish pre-registration pharmacists.  Pre-registration pharmacists in Scotland are unaffected by this change as they already enjoy a reduced working week of 37.5 hours.


Commenting on the settlement PDAU Director Paul Day said:


“This pay settlement is a solid start to the improved employee relations we intend to create at Boots to improve the working lives of pharmacists.


“The pay settlement was negotiated by pharmacists for pharmacists and is a significant step forward as PDAU ensure the voice of pharmacists is heard.


“This should also be seen as a call to action for those who have not yet joined the PDA to sign up and build our numbers further so we go into the next pay talks in an  even stronger position.”


The PDAU has pulled together a frequently asked questions page on this topic. you can access it by clicking here.


The joint statement issued by the PDAU and Boots can be viewed by clicking here.