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Boots employees win legal battle over Sunday rate cuts

Legal Health and beauty giant Boots may be forced to pay compensation to some long-term employees after an employment tribunal ruled that it acted unlawfully when it cut Sunday pay rates by a quarter last year.

Health and beauty giant Boots may be forced to pay compensation to some long-term employees after an employment tribunal ruled that it acted unlawfully when it cut Sunday pay rates by a quarter last year.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) Union, which has been taking legal action for 19 claimants and represented one Boots employee in a test case in April, reported yesterday (May 1) that the judge had concluded premium Sunday rates were part of employees' contractual payments and not discretionary.

Employees involved in the case could now expect their double rates on Sundays to be restored and compensation for any losses, the PDA Union said. The union also pledged to push Boots for a response on its position on other affected employees not part of the claim.

Boots was "disappointed" with the tribunal's decision against what the PDA Union called an erosion of "fundamental contractual staff rights"

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Boots told C+D it was "disappointed" with the tribunal's decision and said 99.4 per cent of its colleagues had accepted the review of its premium rates and reward package in April last year.

"This review was in line with the marketplace and included both a reduction in certain premium payments from double time to time-and-a-half, as well as a company-wide increase in base pay," a company spokesperson said.

"We have also introduced a new bonus for store colleagues who offer exemplary customer care."

But PDA Union general secretary John Murphy said the ruling could force Boots to reappraise "not only its policy of eroding fundamental contractual staff rights, but also the way it deals with similar issues in future".

The union claimed that it was initially approached by more than 70 Boots employees over the cuts to Sunday rates, but said Boots had refused its request to log a group grievance. It said the tribunal judge had been "surprised" to hear Boots company managers "lacked any authority" to hear individual grievances on company policy.

"We believe that they [Boots] adopted a divide-and-conquer approach by requiring all of the pharmacists involved to have to attend an individual grievance meeting and a further appeal," Mr Murphy said.

The PDA Union renewed its calls for Boots to give it official recognition after claiming the company's own union, the Boots Pharmacists' Association (BPA), had not challenged the Sunday pay cuts. The union pledged to seek independent arbitration on Boots' decision not to formally recognise it last month.

The row had previously stirred up controversy on the C+D website, as readers were divided over the issue of premium Sunday rates. While some argued that pharmacists had done well to receive double-time rates "for as long as they did" others responded that employers could not claim Sundays were "just another day". Join the debate on C+D's message board

Does your pharmacy pay premium Sunday rates?

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Tom Jerry, Community pharmacist

Its ironic Boots got Booted!!

I agree in treatiing patients with respect but not with disprecting and mistreating loyal staff members.

Isobel Smith, C+D Community Assistant

The following comment was sent in via email from Mark McDaniel:

Tribunal Decision is that Boots were WRONG to take 25% pay off it longest serving members of staff. Now there is a surprise because anybody with any common sense or decency would know that this is wrong to target part time workers who have served and built up the business to what is today and implement a 25% cut in their pay. My wife has 27 years unbroken and loyal service with Boots and is one of those who fought this as since Sunday trading started, she has given up weekends away with family and all the other family time that the senior managers at boots have enjoyed with their families and i am proud that she has stood up and been counted and not rolled over and accepted this, which is more than can be said by many of the people moaning but not prepared to step up and do anything about it. All i can see is that these people are clearly happy to accept a 25% cut in thier pay and this time next year they will be on single time, because this is the thin end of the wedge for boots long term plans hiding behind the mask they call "No 1 Customer Care"

Good Decision by the Tribunal and 1 in the face for Boots the Giant.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Equally, that was a personal decision to work part time on a Sunday. In some respects there is a touch of self interest in preserving £40-£45 per hour while colleagues work for normal pay and when compared to someone workining for minumum wage then it is outrageous.

Max Falconer, Superintendent

Should the Boots Superintendent now face action by the GPhC for bringing the profession into disrepute and acting dishonestly?

Shveta V, Community pharmacist

No - the superintendent is surely a guardian for the way in which pharmacy is practised in a company, not how a business decides on operational costs.

Reg Rehal, Community pharmacist

Really silly move by the employees. Boots will have no choice but to recoupe their losses by job cuts. Therefore more unemployment! Well done PDA!!!

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Yes well done the PDA !!

You see it's times like these when you need back up that there is someone there with the expertise.

The remit. The will. The guts and tenacity to meet it head on.

We might say and think we deserve x pounds per hour because we have a difficult job and spent a few years at Uni.

There are many others who could argue this and they earn less than we do at 'normal rates'.

The most important issue is a company has been held to account for the way it has handled a pay issue by acting like it is untouchable.

If staff have volunteered to work Sundays - it is another matter. At least they should have allowed a proper grievance over the pay reduction.

This is a rare positive among the torrent of issues and problems we have currently and I hope it sends out the message that you can't treat pharmacists unfairly simply because of their ethics and good will.

From now on they might just bite back !

Din Patel, Manager

I am surprised Gerry hasn't said the judge was wrong!

I should say, I am surprised Boots got away with cheating their employees for so long.

Locums should also refuse to work at Boots for anything less than double time. But they will be too gutless.

Come on PDA, organise a national strike of pharmacists at Boots and demand £50/hour. Boots will be forced to capitulate in weeks as their business will be destroyed.
£9k fees for 4 years to earn peanuts. Come on, stand up and fight like men!

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Hello Din, I don't think is a big setback because it is a genuine dispute and these matters arise all the time in the best run organisations.

On balance I do believe that Boots are still one of the better employers in community pharmacy as there are good employee benefits such as bonuses, decent pay, company pension, mileage, GPhC fees paid, RPS fee support, staff discount, supportive management, sick pay, CPD, post graduate study, career development and so on.

I think that most Boots employees view their employment as a decent package and don't have much time for the negative press that the company gets from some quarters.

Take care Din!

Schar Minkel, Community pharmacist

Boots pharmacy staff are frightened to record anything negative in their annual "phone in" satisfaction survey for fear of being identified and singled out. As usual, operations driven by accountants and deployed by non pharmacist managers ..... numbers and volumes are ALL that matter to Boots Co.

Yassin Dickie, Community pharmacist

It is precisely because of reasons such as this that I never joined the BPA. They are not prepared to stand up to company policies such as this.

Have grave doubts about a national strike by Boots pharmacists or even the pharmacy profession itself. We are simply too divided to get such a degree of unity.

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