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Ex-Sainsbury’s Lloydspharmacy workers head to court over redundancy benefits

“Almost 100” former Lloydspharmacy workers in Sainsbury’s stores are taking the multiple to court in an effort to access enhanced redundancy benefits, the pharmacists’ union has announced.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) led the workers in their claim that they should receive enhanced redundancy benefits in line with the terms of their employment to Sainsbury’s, before the supermarket chain sold its pharmacy business to Lloydspharmacy.

But internal recourse for the workers has been exhausted, after the multiple announced last month that it had rejected the workers’ appeal on the matter.

At the time, the multiple ruled that the workers “do not have a contractual right” to enhanced redundancy payments and confirmed that it would instead offer only statutory benefits.

Read more: ‘Hugely disappointed’: Lloydspharmacy rejects Sainsbury’s redundancy appeal

Now the PDA has announced that the former Sainsbury’s employees “are set to commence legal proceedings against Lloydspharmacy to secure an entitlement to enhanced redundancy payments”, with “almost 100” pharmacists taking part.

It said over the weekend (July 29) that the pharmacists had asked the union to support them in bringing the claim to the multiple.


"Hundreds of thousands of pounds”


The difference between basic statutory and enhanced redundancy benefits “can be tens of thousands of pounds” for longer-serving employees and thousands of pounds for other individual pharmacists, the PDA said.

But legislation “is meant to prevent contractual benefits from being removed by a new employer”, it added.

PDA director Paul Day told C+D that the overall difference between the redundancy benefits paid by Lloydspharmacy and the entitlement under Sainsbury's contracts "totals hundreds of thousands of pounds".

And PDA Union general secretary Mark Pitt said that union members “feel badly let down” and believe that the multiple has “reneged on [its] obligations”.

Read more: Lloydspharmacy 'named and shamed' in government minimum wage probe

He added that PDA members had “no other options” but to launch court action after Lloydspharmacy rejected the workers’ claims at a collective grievance hearing and at an appeal to that ruling.

“Senior leaders in the company were given opportunities to correct this situation”, he said.

Mr Pitt added that union lawyers working with a specialist barrister have lodged “multiple claims” in the employment tribunal system. 


First cases "fully lodged"


Mr Day told C+D that the first cases are now "fully lodged", with the remainder to follow. He said that the PDA expects "most will continue to the tribunal stage".

"Tribunal claims related to TUPE are complex and case law is continuously evolving so we will be monitoring developments as the evidence unfolds,” Mr Pitt added.

Mr Day told C+D that the legal process is now managed by the employment tribunal service, which will allocate a court, set dates and ensure the case is heard.

Read more: ‘Unlikely’ Boots can avoid redundancy for all staff in closing stores, PDA warns

He said that the PDA anticipates the case will be held at the Midlands West Employment Tribunal since Lloydspharmacy’s head office is in Coventry.

As the PDA represents only pharmacists, it encouraged workers in other pharmacy roles to join “an appropriate independent trade union”.

Read more: Well Pharmacy reveals it has taken on ‘a number of’ ex-Lloydspharmacy staff

A spokesperson for Lloydspharmacy told C+D that the multiple "has been working hard to support all colleagues" who have been "affected" since it announced its withdrawal from Sainsbury's stores.

"Lloydspharmacy has ensured that it is acting responsibly and equitably towards all colleagues impacted by the change, including paying statutory redundancy pay in line with our policies,” the spokesperson said.


How did we get here?


The workers were transferred from Sainsbury’s to Lloydspharmacy in 2016 under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE).

But when they were made redundant by Lloydspharmacy after the multiple elected to shut all of its 237 branches in Sainsbury’s stores, they only received statutory redundancy benefits - “the bare minimum…in law” - rather than the enhanced redundancy benefits that they were entitled to as Sainsbury’s employees, according to the PDA.

In May, Lloydspharmacy turned down the PDA’s initial collective grievance on redundancy terms and the trade union moved to escalate the dispute to an internal appeal.

Read more: 'Around a hundred’ ex-Lloydspharmacy Sainsbury’s staff in redundancy dispute

C+D revealed in June that “around a hundred” ex-Sainsbury's Lloydspharmacy workers had put their names to the collective grievance, first announced by the PDA in February. 

The pharmacist trade union had said in January that it was “working tirelessly” to prevent job losses at Lloydspharmacy after the multiple announced that it would withdraw from Sainsbury’s in-store pharmacies over the course of 2023.

As of June 13, all Sainsbury’s Lloydspharmacy stores had closed for good, as revealed exclusively by C+D.

In July 2015, Celesio, then Lloydspharmacy’s parent company bought 281 Sainsbury’s pharmacies (277 in-store branches and four hospital pharmacies) for £125 million.

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