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Asda pays pharmacists incentive to accept reduced hours

Asda pharmacists will be asked to “work compressed contracted hours” and “fewer days” in new “voluntary” contracts, C+D has learned.

Asda pharmacists will be asked to “voluntarily” accept new contracts with reduced hours as the supermarket introduces a “new structure” across its pharmacies, according to documents seen by C+D.

Pharmacists that accept the new contract will receive a one-off “pharmacist payment”, a spokesperson for Asda confirmed.

The spokesperson told C+D today (June 19) that the supermarket was “proposing some changes” to its pharmacy operations "following a recent change in pharmacy opening hours across [its] estate”.

Read more: Asda pharmacy set to close amid drop in footfall and locum ‘staffing gaps’

The spokesperson said that the changes will include “amending pharmacists' shift patterns to align with the new opening hours” and the creation of two new roles – a practice manager and an accuracy checking dispensing assistant (ACDA).

All 399 of Asda’s current pharmacists will be affected by the changes, the spokesperson confirmed.


“Compressed contracted hours”


The supermarket chain said that there is a “disparity regarding when [its] teams work” because “working patterns” have not been “amended” to reflect new pharmacy opening hours, according to the internal documents seen by C+D.

The new pharmacist contracts “offer the opportunity to work compressed contracted hours, working fewer days”, they said.

Read more: Asda joins forces with Pharmacy2U to launch ‘online prescription service’

C+D understands that the retail giant has pharmacists currently working in some cases between the hours of 7am and 11pm, which are old trading hours when it is no longer open or trading.


“Voluntary movement”


Asda’s documents added that the supermarket wants to “make these changes informally and on a voluntary basis”.

Asda area managers will meet with the supermarket chain’s pharmacists to have “conversations about voluntary movement” onto a new contract beginning this month, with the aim to complete the “changes” by September, according to the documents.

Pharmacists may “bring a representative along with them if they wish” to the meeting with the area manager, they said.

Read more: Asda admits OTC ‘link selling’ policy for Pharmacy First consultations

While the change in contract is voluntary, the one-off payment payable after the changes have gone live will be offered to get pharmacists to agree to the changes.

And the supermarket giant told C+D that it will remain in conversation with pharmacists that do not agree to the new terms.


Enter the practice manager


In the new structure, each pharmacy will have a “practice manager” who will “manage the overall pharmacy” and report to the area manager, with all “hourly paid” and salaried colleagues reporting to them, the documents said.

“All eligible pharmacists” can apply for the practice manager role, which comes with additional responsibilities and “the potential to earn financial benefit as a performance related bonus”, according to the documents.

A sample schedule shows practice managers working 40-hour weeks of four 11-hour days.

Read more: ‘Running at a loss’: Asda confirms seven pharmacies will close in August

Pharmacists will work 28-hour weeks, also working four days a week, but two shifts will be 11 hours and the other two four hours, it said.

According to Asda’s documents, this “overlap” time will allow practice managers to “complete their management duties each week”.

Asda said that the practice manager role was trialled in 12 pharmacies over the course of three months and was devised because its pharmacies did not have a “lead” pharmacist role.

Read more: UPDATED: Asda proposes closing seven pharmacies

It added that it saw “positive outcomes across performance, compliance and colleague feedback”.

Meanwhile, the documents said that the new accuracy checking dispensing assistant (ACDA) role will be paid by the hour.

Read more: Asda in Pharmacy First locum row over ‘unacceptable’ email

Those who move into this role will receive an additional £1 per hour, C+D understands.

"These roles will ensure we are aligned with the rest of the market, improving overall efficiency and providing further development opportunities for our pharmacy colleagues,” the Asda spokesperson said.


PDA members concerned


A spokesperson for the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) told C+D that “a number of members” had expressed concern about the proposed changes at Asda.

The trade union said that it will “support [its] members to understand and exercise their rights as employees and as the responsible pharmacists”. 

Read more: Asda slashes flu jab cost by half following 'rapid rise' in cases

The PDA encouraged members to contact its member support centre “to discuss their particular circumstances” if they have concerns.

A spokesperson for Asda said that it had not consulted with pharmacists or trade unions because it had not entered a formal process.


Asda latest


In April, C+D reported that Asda had earmarked a branch in Bodwin, Cornwall, for closure after “loss-making for a number of years due to a continuous decline in customer usage”.

The same month, the supermarket multiple announced a partnership with Pharmacy2U to become “the first UK supermarket to launch an online prescription service”.

In February, Asda confirmed that its pharmacists would be “link selling” over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications during Pharmacy First consultations “when appropriate”.

Read more: Asda offers patients cash incentive to chat to pharmacist about Pharmacy First

This came after news in January that locums had been threatened with removal from Asda’s locum directory if they refused to provide Pharmacy First services, as revealed by an internal email.

The same month, the supermarket giant sought to raise awareness of the new Pharmacy First service by adding £1 to patients’ “cash pot” on its rewards app when they spoke to the pharmacy team about it.

And in June last year, Asda confirmed that proposals to close seven in-store pharmacies would go ahead, with the branches to close their doors in August 2023.

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