How can pharmacy raise pay rates?

hand out for money - coins in palm

There’s no doubt wages for pharmacists have become dismal – to the point where many are considering leaving the profession

But what can be done about it? AJP ran a poll recently to determine what you think the profession could do to help remunerate pharmacists more highly, and there were several key suggestions which stood out.

Readers were invited to tick any responses they deemed relevant out of the 10 suggestions we gave. And there was a clear winner: Fair Work Australia needs to increase the award rate. This option netted 294 votes.

Matt Harris from the employee pharmacist’s union told the AJP that he’s glad that this was the top response, as PPA currently has a case before the Fair Work Commission to lift award rates.

“Employee pharmacist rates were last assessed in the mid-90s by the Fair Work Commission, and there’s been no consideration of the value of the work of these pharmacists since then,” Harris says.

“We believe that there’s been significant change in the profession since that time, and now the Fair Work Commission should reconsider the work value of those pharmacists.”

The union is seeking an increase of up to 30% in award wages, he says.

Part of the change in pharmacists’ duties since the last assessment includes the increased counselling role played by pharmacists.

Indeed, remuneration for additional services was another top response, receiving 249 votes.

“We’ve asked the Commission in our claim for allowances around professional services – we believe that the employee pharmacists who actually provide the services should receive a percentage of the payment a pharmacy owner receives for these services,” Harris says.

The top responses were as follows, at the time of writing:

  1. Fair Work Australia needs to increase the award rate (294 votes)
  2. Pharmacy schools need to reduce student places (255 votes)
  3. Pharmacists need to be paid for additional services (249 votes)
  4. The Government needs to increase PBS remuneration (242 votes)
  5. The Guild needs to negotiate better terms in the 7CPA (205 votes)

The least popular options were better training for pharmacy graduates, with 29 votes, and going rural, with 37 votes.

Reduction of competition was a strong theme in comments on the poll.

“Reduce the number of pharmacy graduates,” suggested Slim Jim.

“17 (or is it now 18?) pharmacy schools churning out thousands of low-quality graduates every year is not helping an argument for better wages.

“Remove pharmacy from the approved list for migrants (has this has already been done?). This only contributes to workforce over-supply and thus low wages.”

Worried said that the Government needs to reduce the number of pharmacies from 5000 to 3000 – and The Cynic responded that this was an existing “unwritten agenda” which was already underway.

Kevin Hayward commented that if employee pharmacists want to receive more, they must give more.

“If a Govt or commercial enterprise is to be persuaded to make financial provision for a wage increase, the first question they will ask is ‘what’s the payback?’

“Only proposals which offer increased productivity, quality, or reduced costs are likely to be considered.”

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NOTICE: It can sometimes take awhile for comment submissions to go through, please be patient.


  1. Apharmacist

    I think that pharmacists attacking a pharmacist’s skill set is exactly what should not be happening with such a discussion. There’s a variable spread across knowledge in pharmacy as there is in all health professions. Even doctors are on a spectrum, where there are those that are extremely capable and those that are not. To say that the graduates from the pharmacy schools across Australia are all low quality is a pretty poor argument. I would rather suggest that the new graduates are clinically more skilled to deal with patient health problems than many owning pharmacists who have graduated decades ago. A lot has changed in that period of time and the teachings at university have become more complex and with it the industry should have gone through significant change, more so than what has currently occurred. No doubt the amount of pharmacists graduating needs to be sustainable with population growth, but I don’t believe the quality of graduates have been reduced in recent times. Pharmacy will improve slowly, but it will probably be the so called ‘low-quality’ graduates that bring about this change.

    • Pharmacist

      Absolutely quality has reduced. Entrance requirements have diminished and registration exams diluted. Critical thinking is a thing of the past from what I have observed over the last decade. The “ground breaking” administration of vaccines really does not require any thought process or accountability. Yet meaningful clinical services like HMRs languish

      • Enjoy

        what’s your evidence for reduced quality ? Where is your proof? Give us hard facts! Entrance requirements have reduced but it hasn’t reduced the quality of education. There are many pharmacy schools and I would even say – they are trained better than previous graduates. There are some ‘crappy’ doctors as well, does it mean all med schools are rubbish ? There is a spectrum of both good and bad pharmacists, just like all professions! Don’t stigmatize based on your narrow perspective!

        • Pharmacist

          Observational studies only. Difficulty of registration exams has reduced significantly. Quality of graduates can only be as good as the limiting factor of the board assessment. Quality of teaching is irrelevant.

          Agreed, medicine has had similar outcomes. Reduced entry requirements and fast tracked degrees. If you halve anatomy and pharmacology teaching hours then obviously worse physicians result. However, more rigorous registration exams exist for specialties.

          Of course there are exceptions to the rule. However, upon my observation, the best pharmacists are leaving the profession in droves.

  2. Kevin Hayward

    Giving more must NOT be interpreted as working harder or longer.
    Giving more in terms of productivity, quality or reducing costs, can be achieved by working smarter.
    We all recognise the current community pharmacy paradigm, it still fits the same model I walked into as an intern 30yrs ago.
    The time has come for pharmacy to grow up and fulfill a potential which embraces technology, and utilises our skilled professionals beyond the realms of the supply function AND in collaboration with other member of the healthcare team.
    This is not just for our own benefits, but for the betterment of the services we provide to our patients.

    • Valentino Cosic

      That’s exactly how its being interpreted by some. I once did some casual hours on a Sunday, and the owner commented, “We pay you double on a Sunday, so its only fair you should be able to do double the work for that rate” (referring to dossette checking they had me do between scripts).

      Needless to say, I didn’t last long there.

  3. Big John

    Pharmacists need to start charging properly for their services. I called around recently to get a quote for an appliance (a simple fridge) to be fixed and the tradies are now charging crazy figures for quotes – up to $150 per quote! Same with mechanics – diagnosis fee.
    It’s absolutely crazy that pharmacists that have trained at university level for years do so much quality work for free.

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