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‘Shocking’: Unpaid locum fees hit highest ever level this year

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) fought employers to secure over £100,000 in unpaid locum fees by October this year, the largest annual amount of locum “wage theft” ever, it has said. 

In the first 10 months of 2023, the pharmacists’ union had already secured £104,182 in locum fees owed to its members, it announced today (November 9).

It said that while the PDA has secured “hundreds of thousands of pounds of outstanding locum fees for members” over the years, 2023 has “surpassed all previous levels with six figures recovered in just the first ten months for the first time”.

The amount is almost double that collected across the entirety of 2022, which reached a total of £58,000 across the 12 months of the year, PDA director Paul Day told C+D.

“With an average amount so far this year of £1,100 per case, this represents almost 100 instances of attempted wage theft”, he added.

The PDA said that as of October, the highest value case it had fought this year had been “over £8,000” – but that the highest ever amount recovered for a member was more than £18,000 in 2020.

The union said that it “advises and supports” locum members who provide information showing they are owed fees.

 

“Shocking”

 

“This is the most we have ever had to help collect in a single year and we’ve still got two months left to go,” Mr Day told C+D.

He said that “recovering unpaid fees is a longstanding area of support to pharmacists” for the PDA but highlighted that “even after accounting for inflation and higher locum rates”, the amount of debt owed to locums this year is “shocking”.

He stressed that these are “legitimate earnings” and that “getting paid for the work you’ve undertaken is a basic right for any worker”.

“Pharmacy owners and the managers they employ need to ensure they pay all pharmacists, whether employees or locums, the full amount agreed”, he added.

 

Ongoing “wage theft” 

 

In August, the PDA criticised “unacceptable” wage theft after it had recovered £65,000 in outstanding wages so far this year.

The union said that it had seen victims not paid their full holiday entitlement, not paid for all hours worked or underpaid the contractual rate.

Last month, shift booking platform provider Locate a Locum chief executive Jonathon Clarke said that increasing locum pay reflected “market forces” that are “increasingly relying on locums to deliver services and ensure that pharmacies remain fully operational”.

He highlighted that recently, the booking agency has “witnessed an increase in negotiations between pharmacies and locum pharmacists, in a bid to improve shift fill rates”, which in turn reduces “the need for emergency cover”.

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