Employers are illegally forcing pharmacists to pay for their own COVID-19 vaccine training, claims the employee pharmacists’ union
Professionals Pharmacists Australia has issued a statement saying that it has warned employers about the alleged practice, saying that forcing pharmacist employees to pay for their own training to administer the COVID-19 vaccine is a serious a breach of the Fair Work Act and must immediately cease.
PPA President Geoff March said pharmacists have been contacting the union in the last few months, saying they had been asked by their employers to pay for their own COVID-19 vaccination training, or that they were not reimbursed for their time doing so.
Some have been seeking advice on their rights regarding who pays for training on administering the vaccine, when their employer requires that they undertake such training, he said.
“While we support the administration of the COVID-19 vaccination program through community pharmacies, it is the responsibility of employers to pay for the training and for the time taken by staff to complete that training,” Dr March said.
“It is a clear breach of the Fair Work Act to require an employee to pay for a training activity that is for the benefit of the employer.”
Dr March said the law was very clear.
“Section 325 of the Fair Work Act 2009 makes it clear that if the employer requires the employee to undertake the training the employer must pay for it,” he said.
“When an employer requires an employee to undertake training they must pay for the training and pay the employee for the time they took to undertake that training if they did so outside of working hours.
“Where an employee undertakes training and or study that is not directed by the employer, the employer may agree to subsidise that training or study but they are not required to do so because such training is of benefit to the employee and may or may not necessarily be of benefit to the employer.”
Dr March said that pharmacy employers should avoid a situation where, if they have failed to fulfil their legal obligations, they are required to backpay employees in training fees and wages.
“It appears that pharmacy employers have forgotten the lessons learnt by Chemist Warehouse when the Fair Work Ombudsman required them to back pay in excess of $3 million to employees who they required to attend training outside of working hours and did not pay them for it,” he said.
“With the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine likely to occur in some community pharmacies, it would be wise for pharmacy employers to heed this lesson, and ensure they are paying to train their staff in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and compensating them for their time, in accordance with the law.”
A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild told the AJP that it has had no reports of members directing staff to attend such training and to pay for it themselves.
“The Guild regularly reminders members that they are required to meet all obligations as outlined within their respective workplace instruments, especially those related to employer-directed training and the reimbursement of any costs associated with this directed training,” the spokesperson said.