More women work in community pharmacy, and recent research has found that of the 55,209 pharmacists registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council in August 2017, 61% identify as female.
Traditionally, the hours we worked in community pharmacy may have been long, but there generally were no unsociable shifts, and no on-call – as is commonly the case in the hospital or industrial pharmacy sectors. Now, the length of shifts can be longer in community pharmacy, typically 8am-8pm, but these can be split into smaller blocks in many of the big multiples. So this means community pharmacy still attracts more women.
So why should there be a difference in men and women’s pay, as shown in C+D's analysis last week? The findings show that overall, women earn an average of 5% less for both managerial and non-managerial work in the sector. It certainly appears that women are doing the same job for less pay.
For non-managerial pharmacists, the pay should be related to workload, the number of prescriptions and extra services provided – such as medicines use reviews – and not due to the gender of the pharmacist.
And when it comes to branch managers, do women pharmacists go for roles in less busy pharmacies, or are they just deployed there? Are men asking for – and getting – more pay rises than women? Until there is clarity on this subject, we can only speculate. But C+D’s findings certainly prompt many other questions – which we will be discussing at our forthcoming annual general meeting on Friday (April 13).
Are we seeing the impact of financial squeeze?
The squeeze on community pharmacy margins due to NHS funding cuts [in England] will certainly have an effect on pharmacists’ pay. For community pharmacy owners, the margin has reduced over the past year. Some employers, particularly at independent pharmacies, pay a part of the remuneration directly to the pharmacist – so with no pay rises for the men, the gap would lessen. So perhaps some pharmacists have taken advantage of the extra services to earn extra money.
Is there a gender bias in the sector?
Are the managerial pharmacists of the larger branches more likely to be male? If so, why? Do men get promoted before women at a certain age, when they have the longevity of continual service, rather than equal experience and ability? Could that be a reason for the difference in pay?
Are locums a special case?
C+D’s analysis also found that the average hourly pay rate for locum pharmacists is higher for women than for men. Possibly women in locum roles do not work a full week, due to other commitments, creating a ‘negative pay gap’. Do women then ask for a higher rate to compensate?
Does experience come into play?
It may be that younger, less-experienced pharmacists – both men and women – are more likely to move into the locum role. An employer is unlikely to cut the wage of a long-standing, loyal, experienced locum – but may well think twice when employing a young, less-experienced one. In my experience, there has been no pay rise at all in the locum sector for over 10 years.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, different aspirations and approach our job and career progression from a different necessity or viewpoint. But, male or female, we should be given the same opportunities, regardless of gender. The bottom line is that men and women should be paid the same wage for the same job.
Anita White is a locum community pharmacist and president of the National Association of Women Pharmacists
Use the interactive tool below to explore C+D's findings on equal pay in the sector: