Penalty rates debate reaches critical point

hourglass and coins - MA expresses PBS cuts concerns

Pharmacy owners and employee pharmacists dig in their heels as Fair Work Commission’s decision on review of weekend penalty rates draws near

The commission, which began the review in 2014, is expected to make its decision next month.

One of the main claims that underpins attempts to cut penalty rates for Sunday workers in the retail sector is that they are no longer needed or relevant.

On behalf of its members, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia put in a submission to the review to have the Pharmacy Industry Award amended to reflect the following in relation to Sunday work:

  1. The current 100% loading for permanent employees be replaced by a 50% loading
  2. The current 125% loading for casual employees be replaced by a 50% loading

“The Guild’s position is that penalty rates for Sunday are too high,” a spokesperson told the AJP.

“Communities expect their pharmacies to be open at weekends, and preferably open seven days a week. To achieve this, the industry needs realistic penalty rates so that pharmacies can afford to open at these times,” they said.

While the spokesperson said the Guild recognises the “traditional family value of Sundays” – which is why the day should still attract a higher rate than Saturday – it did not deserve the current rate.

“The important factor never to lose sight of is that when assessing the appropriate remuneration that the pharmacy professional remains viable and sustainable moving forward,” they said.

Professional Pharmacists Australia vehemently disagrees with the Guild.

“PPA rejects that the solution to pharmacy’s problems is to further reduce pay,” a spokesperson told AJP.

“The Guild’s push for lower wages in community pharmacy is at odds with their apparent support for an expansion of professional services.

“We support expanding the role of pharmacists, but this should lead to better pay, not worse,” they said.

“Cuts to penalty rates will harm the pharmacy profession; it will widen a gap in working conditions between employee pharmacists and other health professionals,” PPA President Dr Geoff March told AJP eight months ago.

“Wages growth is at a record low, and pharmacists, like most employees, can’t afford a pay cut,” he said.

However the Guild believes times have moved on, and wages should reflect the modernisation of the working week.

“The historical justification for the imposition of penalty rates emerged out of social norms and behaviours established in Victorian times,” the group wrote in its review submission.

“The standard working week for a full-time employee was much longer (e.g. 46 hours per week in 1921) but has gradually reduced over time to 38 hours per week as a result of the introduction of tighter working time restrictions.

“Weekend penalty rates (along with the reduction of standard working hours and overtime rates) arose out of the social policy objective of reducing working hours and encouraging working people to recuperate and engage in activities outside work,” it said.

What do you think about Sunday penalty rates?


You may be interested in the following articles:

Is there a pharmacy wage crisis?

New roles blocked by pay, workload worries

Pharmacists’ role is too limited: Duckett

Previous Crookwell pharmacy and community support injured local
Next Research Roundup

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


  1. Unhappy Pharmacist

    The Guild are blood sucker and the ones that are pulling down the pharmacy profession. They only have the owners interests in mind and disguise it as “its in the public interest” completely disgusting. Pharmacists are already one of the lowest paid health professionals in Australia (if not the worst), If the penalty rates were to decrease, just watch the further decline of the number of pharmacists in the industry. Time to leave this crappy profession

    • rose DJOUDI

      agree totally for those who can its time to leave

  2. Guy Callum-Power

    I wonder what the various titles at the Guild are doing on a Sunday?

    I bet it’s not a 12-hour shift for SFA with no holiday loading.

  3. JimT

    The Guild accepted a pay cut from the Govt. ie lower margins and price disclosure etc on PBS and now businesses are crying poor and are “making” pharmacist staff pay for it through lower penalty rates and a basic award which is pathetic !!!

  4. Paige

    The more rubbish like this the guild pulls the stronger Professional Pharmacists Australia becomes and the more likely you are to see profession-wide resistance from the very employees who line your pockets. If the guild push this through I guarantee that PPA will have a surge in membership and resources and it’ll make things incredibly difficult down the road.

    • bob

      They need to act like a real union! Why hasn’t there been a strike yet?

  5. Jane

    I was earning the same wage on a Sunday 16 years ago when I had my first child as I am now. Isn’t that enough? The fact that the rate has stayed the same all these years…sometimes I will see 20-30 people who want me to act as doctor on a Sunday shift, as well as do up to 200 scripts with very little support, no breaks, food if you can grab some. If that’s not worth a decent rate of pay, I don’t know what is.

  6. JimT

    Some may remember “Chemists Care, Does Hawke” we all rallied for the cause, staff and owners alike, now we are being let down by our bosses union………..”Chemists Care, Does The Guild !!??”

  7. Ronky

    If you don’t think it’s profitable for your pharmacy to open on Sundays, then don’t open it on Sundays. Nobody’s forcing you to. This is just a sickening excuse to drive down pharmacists’ pay even further. I notice the Guild spokesman didn’t suggest that its proposed 25% to 33% reduction in Sunday wages should be balanced by a similar increase in wages for the rest of the week.

Leave a reply