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Tesco points to ‘higher’ fixed locum rates after claims about lowballing hourly pay

Tesco Pharmacy has fielded allegations that it is pressuring locums to accept lower pay for shifts they had already confirmed – or risk losing out on work – by pointing to its new “higher” standard hourly rates.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) claimed to have been contacted by locums who had been asked by Tesco Pharmacy to accept lower pay for confirmed bookings after it introduced new fixed hourly rates this month, which top out at £36 an hour for emergency bookings.

The union claimed that locums had reported having their pre-agreed shifts cancelled if they did not accept these rates in a statement published earlier this week (July 19).

Tesco did not directly address these allegations when contacted by C+D for comment.


Read more: Tesco Pharmacy to introduce four fixed locum rates from mid-July


Instead, a spokesperson for the supermarket chain pointed to the “higher” fixed rates it introduced last week (July 18), which C+D reported last month range from £27.25 to £32.50 per hour depending on factors including location, date, and time.

C+D understands that the supermarket chain believes the majority of locums it engages will now receive a higher hourly rate.

A letter that appears to have been sent on behalf of Tesco last month states these rates were brought in to “stabilise increased costs for the business caused by industry-wide labour shortages”.

C+D understands that locum pharmacists whose bookings are cancelled less than three days in advance will still receive payment from Tesco for the shift.

The subject of pharmacist shortages has been a divisive one, with some arguing that there is a concerning lack of pharmacists, while others maintain that the register has never been so full.


Temporary closures


The PDA further claimed that Tesco Pharmacy is temporarily closing branches when no other cover can be found because pre-booked locums have not walked back on previously agreed rates.

"If a locum shift was agreed in advance but is cancelled by the employer, resulting in a closure, the PDA believes no reasonable person would describe that as there being a shortage of pharmacists," the union said.



Read more: ‘No one’s taking responsibility’: PDA pens open letter on temporary closures


But the multiple responded that Tesco’s pharmacy managers are “working to ensure [pharmacies] have the cover [they] need” in areas facing “particularly challenging” demand, a spokesperson told C+D.

The supermarket chain knows it has an obligation to provide pharmacy services in stores where it has an NHS license and will do whatever it can to ensure its pharmacies stay open, C+D understands.


Read more: CCA hits back at ‘insulting’ PDA open letter on temporary pharmacy closures


It follows a blistering open letter penned by PDA chair Mark Koziol earlier this week, where he hit out at “unnecessary” full- or part-day branch closures by some large community pharmacy chains.

On Wednesday (July 20), the Company Chemists' Association retorted that retaining staff is becoming “increasingly tough” and the large chains that make up its membership are “working extraordinarily hard to prevent temporary closures".


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