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How can community pharmacy close its gender pay gap?

Data from the C+D Salary Survey 2021 showed that female pharmacists were being paid less on average than their male colleagues. What can be done to level the playing field?

Equal rights for men and women in the workplace may have improved significantly over the past few decades – but results from the C+D Salary Survey 2021 show there is still a way to go when it comes to pay in community pharmacy.

The survey, which ran from November 26 to December 31, 2021, found significant disparities in pay between male and female pharmacists performing the same role, whether that was branch managers, employee pharmacists or locums.

According to data obtained through the survey, female community pharmacist branch managers took home an average of £4,194 less per year in 2021 than their male counterparts. Similarly, female second or non-manager pharmacists earned on average £6,128.80 less than men in the same position.


Read more: Average male pharmacist branch manager's pay £4k higher than female in same role


Results from the C+D Salary Survey 2021 paint a somewhat depressing picture of what it is like to work in community pharmacy as a woman – from pressure to work unpaid overtime to caring responsibilities that make relocating to a different area for a higher salary impossible.

What can be done to close the pay gap and make pharmacy a more equitable profession for women?


Gender pay gap vs equal pay

C+D's exclusive analysis focuses on equal pay – the legal requirement that men and women in the same employment, performing equal work, must receive the same wages.
The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across a company, regardless of role or seniority. Since 2017, all companies employing over 250 staff have been required by law to annually publish their gender pay gap, gender bonus gap, proportion of men and women receiving bonuses, and proportion of men and women in each pay band in the organisation.


NAWP: publish pay data


“There is no valid reason for material difference in the average pay of male pharmacists compared to female pharmacists,” the National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP) said in response to the survey’s findings.

“An early step in ensuring equal pay is reviewing the existing situation,” according to NAWP – a network within the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) that has been “working for equality in the profession for over a century”.

An easy way to monitor the issue would be for employers to publish more data on their employees’ salaries, it suggested.

“Employers with 250 or more employees are already obliged to publish an overall comparison of men and women’s average pay across their organisation in an annual gender pay gap report,” it told C+D. 

Employers can therefore also “calculate a specific comparison for pharmacists only” as they “already have the data relating to the pharmacists they employ”, it said.

NAWP suggested employers then publish these comparisons “to demonstrate a genuine commitment to delivering equal pay for pharmacists”.


RPS: “Empower women to negotiate better pay rates”


Amandeep Doll, head of professional belonging at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said that C+D's findings show that “gender pay gap disparities still clearly exist in pharmacy”.

“That’s extremely disappointing,” she said.

But there may be a way for female pharmacists to ensure they are being paid the same as their male colleagues, she suggested.

“We know that men are better at asking for pay rises and negotiating their pay compared to women,” Ms Doll continued. “We need to empower women to negotiate better pay rates and pay rises.”

On top of that, Ms Doll urged employers to “review their pay rates continually to ensure there are equal gender pay rates”.


Negotiating higher rates of pay


Data from the Salary Survey indicates that many female pharmacists are already negotiating higher salaries for themselves.

Out of the 75 female locums responding to the 2021 Salary Survey, 60% said their salaries had increased. Over three quarters of this group (76%) said they had successfully negotiated higher pay with their employer. The remaining quarter said their employer had increased their rate voluntarily.


Read more: Podcast – My journey to become Lloydspharmacy’s first ever female superintendent pharmacist


But despite many female pharmacists successfully negotiating a raise, they still took home less on average than their male counterparts, according to data from the survey. Female locums earned £27.46 per hour on average, compared to the average of £28.55 male locums earned per hour.

Comparatively, 52% of male locums reported seeing their salary increase between 2020 and 2021, with 86% of those being paid more saying they had successfully negotiated higher pay.


Relocating for higher pay


Last month, C+D revealed the areas of the UK with the highest and lowest locum rates according to data from the Salary Survey 2021. Hourly pay peaked in Scotland and was at the lowest in Greater London.

So perhaps relocating to another area could be a good option for female locums who feel they are being paid less than their worth?

But, according to respondents to the survey, it is not always that simple.

The vast majority of female locums (93%) said they would not consider moving or relocating to achieve higher rates of pay.

Some cited family commitments as one of the reasons why this was not an option for them.

One said she could not relocate because she was her “mother’s carer”. Another said she had “a school-age child”, while a further respondent said she had “family to think of”.

A fourth said she was “staying closer to home due to the pandemic”. As “the sole earner in my house” she could not “sit at home and keep my fingers crossed that a higher rate shift will appear”, she said.


Pressure to work overtime


According to further data from the Salary Survey, female pharmacists are more likely to work unpaid overtime than their male colleagues.

Over half (53%) of female non-manager pharmacist respondents said they tended to work between one and five hours above their contracted hours without overtime pay each week, and another 12% said they often did up to nine hours of unpaid overtime work.

Comparatively, 47% of male non-manager pharmacists said they completed between one and five hours of unpaid work outside their contracted hours each week, with 6% saying they worked between six and nine unpaid hours unpaid a week.

One respondent said she was “starting early and staying late”, but got “no extra money”, despite her working hours increasing. Her working conditions were “very difficult”, she said.

Another wrote that she and her colleagues “keep being asked for extra duty” because “there are not enough of us pharmacists in the company”. She received pressure from management to work longer shifts, but there was “very little benefit” in doing so, she said, because “we do not get paid an overtime wage for taking [them]”.

Data from the C+D Salary Survey 2021 has revealed that stress, pay and working conditions are pain points for many people working in community pharmacy, regardless of their gender. Nonetheless, it seems clear that many women in the sector are still being paid unfairly.

And while more pressure for employers to publish their pay gap data and encouraging more female pharmacists to push for pay rises may go some way to solving the problem, it is not yet clear if this will be enough to close the gap once and for all.


Read more C+D Salary Survey 2021 coverage here.


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