The Fair Work Commission found last week that it is “not satisfied there is an elevated risk of infection for workers covered by the Pharmacy Award”
An application by unions to introduce paid pandemic leave for workers including employee pharmacists and pharmacy assistants was knocked back last week.
Several unions, including Professionals Australia/APESMA, had submitted that pharmacists were frontline workers who should be entitled to paid pandemic leave on multiple occasions.
However the Pharmacy Guild of Australia submitted that “in light of the measures which have been taken to control the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no greater risk or chance that a person working in a community pharmacy would come into close contact with a person who is carrying COVID-19 than in any other retail environment, or in schools, clubs, hotels, food courts, cafes, restaurants, sports events, gyms, swimming pools, beauticians, hair dressers, or by visiting family or friends, undertaking interstate or intra-state travel, attending weddings or funerals or attending a workplace”.
Instead, pharmacy workers had a lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than workers in other industries, the Guild said, because of “hygiene requirements and the brevity of contact with particular customers”.
Associate Professor Chris Freeman, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, has told AJP that the PSA was “bitterly disappointed with this decision from the Fair Work Commission, as it shows a complete lack of respect for pharmacists who have continued to show up day after day to treat their patients and the community during a pandemic”.
Dr Freeman told AJP that the PSA believes pharmacists are still shouldering significant risk.
“Most pharmacists were and still are faced with situations where patients displaying symptoms of COVID-19 enter a pharmacy looking for assistance or medication which puts pharmacists and pharmacy staff at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19,” he said.
Meanwhile since April 2020 pharmacists have been able to access unpaid pandemic leave.
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