‘Pharmacy employees are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19.’


The pharmacy union has filed an application with the Fair Work Commission to have paid pandemic leave entitlements inserted into the Pharmacy Industry Award

Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA), along with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and a number of other health unions, have filed an application with the Fair Work Commission to have paid pandemic leave entitlements inserted into a number of federal awards relating to health workers – including the Pharmacy Industry Award.

Measures they are calling for – which will apply to both casual and permanent staff – include two weeks of paid leave per instance where a worker is required to self-isolate, or is prevented from working by government.

They are also requesting immediate credit of 20 days personal leave where a worker is infected with COVID-19, so they could then take personal leave while off work due to infection.

PPA says: “Because of the nature of their work pharmacy employees are more likely than some other employees to be exposed to COVID-19; more likely to contract COVID-19; more likely to be required to self-isolate on more than one occasion; and, more likely to spread COVID-19, including to vulnerable persons.

“Due to the increased risks to the employee and to the community, it is essential that pharmacy employees self-isolate as quickly as possible if they contract COVID-19, and if they come in contact with someone who has been required to self-isolate – in order to protect the employee, and most importantly the community.”

The application to vary the Award is a temporary measure that would apply for six months only.

These entitlements may also assist employers to retain staff and avoid costs of employing new staff, argues the PPA. 

The Fair Work Commission has indicated that it will hear the application “as a matter of urgency”, with the claim likely to be heard within the next month.

PPA has urged all pharmacy employees to sign its petition, which has reached nearly 600 signatures on the platform Megaphone, to ask the Pharmacy Guild to support its claim.

However while many pharmacists have shared their support for the proposed award measures on social media, a few have voiced concerns about how costs would be covered.

“Who is going to pay for it? The owner who has closed his shop?” asked one pharmacist.

Another similarly said: “Who is going to fund this? The owner who has to close the shop, with no staff to work and paying all staff 20 days sick leave? You might get paid for for pandemic leave, but you might not have a job to go back to.”

“Probably this is a non- issue – most employers will look after their valuable staff,” a pharmacy owner commented.

A different commenter added: “Didn’t think about a separate leave but at our work, we discussed the use of sick leave and annual leave if that happened. It is important staff and their families need to feel supported at this time.”

The Pharmacy Guild told AJP that it will consider the union’s proposal and its ramifications, and deal with those matters in the Commission when they arise.

“The Guild is very mindful of the challenging circumstances that the pharmacy profession and their teams are facing together during the COVID-19 crisis, and we are focusing on ways to support pharmacy owners and staff to deliver services to the community,” said a spokesperson for the Guild.

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