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Trainees hit out: Reports of employers backtracking on Oriel placement terms

Trainee pharmacists have raised concerns that some employers aren’t keeping to the foundation training placement terms that they advertised on Oriel, C+D has learned.

Speaking to C+D, Zhyar Said, a healthcare analyst and the owner of the Instagram-based trainee pharmacist educational platform @Revise_Pharma, said that he had been approached by “around 10” trainees in late July and early August, soon after they had begun their work placements. 

Each report, seen by C+D, independently told Mr Said that the contracts for their placements featured different terms than what had been advertised to them months ago on Oriel, the NHS’s UK-wide recruitment system. 

Read more: Top tips for trainee pharmacists starting their placement year

Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) director Paul Day confirmed to C+D last week (August 11) that the union has previously supported trainees facing similar issues, and continues to do so.

The PDA supports “each and every year’s cohort” of trainees “who seek our help with these or other issues”, he said, with the most common complaints being “insufficient study time” and not being paid the salary advertised on Oriel.

While the number of trainees affected by such issues “varies year to year”, Mr Day stressed that “even if it were just one it would be too many”.


No study time, no training costs, more hours


Mr Said runs a chat group for around 1,600 trainee pharmacists, in which he provides educational resources and offers assistance throughout the foundation training year. In this role, trainees often come to him for help with their studies. 

He told C+D that one trainee had taken a placement that had advertised that the cost of an external training provider would be covered by the pharmacy.

The trainee told him that they had even checked with the company beforehand to confirm these terms. But upon being paid, the trainee reported that their training costs had been taken out of their pay.

Read more: UPDATED: Boots trainee pharmacist pay tops out at £25k following uplift

Another trainee told Mr Said that ring-fenced study hours were advertised but not given, and when the trainee confronted their tutor, they were told that it was “better to learn while being in the shop”. Yet another trainee found that their working hours had increased from the advertised 40 hours to 45 hours.

Mr Said told C+D that he referred the concerned trainees to the PDA for further support and advice.

With an unusually large number of people complaining about their employment terms, Mr Said decided to run a poll.

The poll, seen by C+D, revealed that 25 more trainees had experienced discrepancies with the salary advertised on Oriel. Of those affected, just under half (12) were carrying out placements at small independent community pharmacies, eight at large multiple pharmacies, four at hospital pharmacies, and one at a GP clinic. 

However, a significant number of trainees (34) indicated that they had not faced contractual issues.


Trainees “less confident” to push back


Mr Day told C+D that trainees can often feel “less confident” asserting their rights, whether due to “poor employment practice” or a manager’s “unwelcome behaviour”.

He said that foundation training placements are often their first experience of full-time employment, and their designated supervisor – who determines if the trainee will proceed to registration assessment – is often their manager or employer.

Read more: Petition racks up 800 signatures as trainees rail against ‘unjust’ GPhC exam

Mr Day said that once the PDA got involved in these sorts of issues, employers were generally responsive. “We are pointing out what the law says, and our members are exercising their legal rights, so employers should comply with the law,” he said.

He added that the PDA can only assist trainees that have become members, and encouraged trainees “to ensure that they are members of an independent trade union”.

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