The union for employee pharmacists has lodged an underpayment claim of around $160,000 for a pharmacist in charge

PPA says that the case is the “worst example of wage theft” it has ever seen.

The underpayments claim dates back five years, and pertains to a pharmacist in charge who worked at least 10 hours a day, except for periods of leave.

The union wrote to the pharmacist’s employer, based on non-payment of overtime, overtime meal allowance and sole pharmacist allowance.

It says that the employer has “consistently” shown disregard to the Pharmacy Industry Award 2010, which entitles all pharmacists to overtime rates of 150% (for the first two hours of Mondays to Saturdays), 200% (Monday to Saturday after two hours, all day Sunday) or 250% (public holiday – all day).

As for meal allowance, it highlights that under the award, “An employee who is required to take their meal break on premises for the purpose of attending to urgent matters requiring the input of a qualified pharmacist be paid at time and a half for the period of the meal break, regardless of other penalties that apply on that day”.

Jacki Baulch, principal industrial officer, says that the union typically receives one or two requests for assistance recovering underpayments every week.

“In 2017 we recovered a total of $1.2 million,” she says. “The most recent Fair Work Ombudsman report found that even after targeted industry education on award standards non-compliance was still at 25%.

“Our experience indicates that many pharmacists have been intimidated out of pursuing these claims or do not realise their rights.

“We recommend pharmacists have their terms and conditions of employment confirmed in writing by their employer prior to starting work. They should also keep an accurate record of their hours worked.”

She says that like all workers, pharmacists are people and deserve rest breaks and meal breaks that allow them to be refreshed and sustain themselves through the work day – and be paid for them, as breaks are necessary to perform their work.

“There are also implication for patient safety that proper breaks allow pharmacists to maintain their level of concentration and professionalism during their shift. It is also a legal requirement won in the Pharmacy Industry Award by PPA members that employers can be forced to remedy.

“Unfortunately long term excessive hours will affect both the pharmacists own health and their performance at work. This is why the Pharmacy Board has guidelines on workloads to ensure patient safety and protect pharmacists’ health.”