Why is the Award changing?

The Pharmacy Industry Award (PIA) sets the legal minimum wages and conditions for employee pharmacists in Australia.

Once every four years the Fair Work Commission reviews Awards such as the PIA to ensure they remain relevant and reflect current standards. Different parties come forward during this narrow window of time to make a case for why their changes should be implemented., as this is generally the only time the Commission can legally consider major changes to the provisions in the Award.

The Guild is seeking a number of changes, including a reduction in Sunday and public holiday penalty rates.

PPA has considered what changes we believe should take place to ensure the award remains relevant to the needs of the industry and most importantly to employee pharmacists.

PPA believes significant changes are required to the Pharmacy Industry Award to ensure it meets the needs of employee pharmacists.

Employee community pharmacists have for some time sat back and watched their colleagues in hospitals and other professions gain better pay and conditions of employment while their pay and conditions have remained stagnant or gone backwards.

Over recent years there have been significant changes in the work done by pharmacists.  Their role as the first point of call and in delivering quality health services to the Australian community has expanded over the last five years and is tipped to expand further in the near future.  These changes have resulted in the need for pharmacists to acquire new and more complex skills in order for them to meet these new challenges.

Senior Industrial Officer Jacki Baulch and Campaign Director Matt Harris look over some proposed changes to the Award.
Senior Industrial Officer Jacki Baulch and
Campaign Director Matt Harris
looking over proposed changes to the Award.

With the ever increasing need for community pharmacists because of the introduction of more and more complex medicines and the ageing of the Australian population, PPA believes that there needs to be an immediate increase in the pay and conditions of employee pharmacists to ensure the profession remains an attractive employment option in the future.  We believe that pharmacists should be respected, recognised and rewarded for their high level of training and responsibility as health professionals.

The following are details of the sorts of issues community pharmacists have told PPA that they want to see improved and PPA has decided to pursue as part of the Fair Work Commission Four Yearly Review of Modern Awards.

What do employee pharmacists want to change?

Pay.

PPA believes employee community pharmacists’ pay should be more reflective of the pay received by pharmacists working in hospitals and the pay received by other professional employees with similar responsibilities, accountabilities and education.  Currently community pharmacists are one of the lowest paid groups of professionals.  A recent Graduate Careers Council survey of all university graduates showed that pharmacy graduates earned less than any other university graduates.

The work performed by community pharmacists has become more and more complex over recent years and community pharmacists are being asked to take on more and more of the community health burden.  Pharmacists have taken on HMRs, Medschecks, Diabetes checks etc. etc.  Now they are being asked to perform inoculations and there is also talk of pharmacists being able to prescribe medicines in certain restricted circumstances.  This trend of increasing reliance on community pharmacists is not going to abate – pharmacists will continue to be asked to take on a greater and greater community health function.

Over a number of years the minimum pay rates contained in the PIA have become less and less reflective of what is paid in the market.  Pay rates of pharmacists working in hospitals and other professionals have increased more than those received by community pharmacists.  This is generally because other professionals and pharmacists working in hospitals are not reliant on the Award to determine their pay and conditions.  The vast majority of community pharmacies are employed in what is considered to be small businesses and as a result bargaining has not generally occurred.  The award remains the main determinate of what pay employee community pharmacists receive.

PPA believes that, at the very least, the award rate of pay should be varied to restore pay relativities that have been eroded over roughly the last decade because of flat rate dollar National Wage Case increases.

If percentage National Wage Case increases had been applied to the PIA instead of flat rate increases, the award minimum rates for community pharmacists would on average be about $150 a week higher than they currently are.

PPA is seeking restoration of these pay relativities.  This would result in the following minimum pay rates:

pay

Allowances for Performing Professional Services.

CPA5 provides for pharmacy owners to receive separate payment for performing specific professional services (e.g. Medschecks, HMR and Diabetes Management).  We believe the employee pharmacist who actually performs these services should receive 75% percent of the payment the pharmacy owner receives for performing each of these services.  This would leave the owner with a reasonable amount to cover their overheads etc.

We are seeking a new allowance in the PIA to provide for employee pharmacists who conduct these services to be paid an allowance of 75% of the fee the owner receives.

The following table shows the amount that would currently be paid:

prof services allowance

Accredited Pharmacists

Many other Awards and agreements provide for additional payment to be paid to employees who hold higher qualifications that are relevant to the work they perform.

We believe employee pharmacists that hold the newly introduced Accredited Pharmacist qualification should be paid more to compensate them for the additional skills they have acquired.  Employers will benefit from having an employee or employees who holds this qualification.  This is a very common practice in other awards (e.g. Nurse Practitioner, specialist doctors etc.)

We are seeking a minimum payment of $1176 per week for a pharmacist that holds an Accredited Pharmacist qualification.

accrediatation

Registration

PPA is seeking a new clause in the Award requiring employers to pay the registration fees for pharmacists (or relevant proportion of registration for part time employee pharmacists).  It is common practice in hospitals and other industries for employers of pharmacists and other professionals to pay their employees registration fees.

PPA is seeking that this common practice be extended to community pharmacy.

registration

CPD

PPA is seeking a new provision in the PIA that requires employers to provide employee pharmacists with time off with pay for them to attend CPD accredited training.  This ensures that employee pharmacists are able to maintain registration and they are up to date with current knowledge and practices.

Many community pharmacies already do this and most hospitals and other employers of professionals do the same.  We are just seeking to have common practice for other professionals introduced throughout community pharmacies.

CPD

Study Leave

We are also seeking a new clause in the Award that provides employee pharmacists with time off and financial support to attend further relevant study (e.g. to become an Accredited Pharmacist)

Once again employers in many other industries, including hospitals, provide their employees with assistance to undertake relevant further study.  This assistance usually takes the form of some contribution to costs and allowing employees some time off to attend lectures, examinations etc.

The PPA proposal is that employers be required to provide employees who are studying for further qualifications that are relevant to the work they perform with up to 4 hours off work each week with pay to attend lectures, examinations etc. and to pay 50% of all fees incurred.

study leave

Insurance

We are seeking the introduction of a new clause in the PIA that requires employers to hold indemnity insurance for their employee pharmacists so they don’t have to take it out themselves.

Once again this is common practice in hospitals and other industries where professionals are employed.

insurance

Pharmacist workloads

We believe it is critical that prescription ratios per pharmacist be introduced as a matter of urgency.  There have been too many cases of pharmacists reporting that they’re required to process unreasonable numbers of prescriptions each day without assistance.  We have seen a number of instances where pharmacists are required to dispense 300 to 400 prescriptions a day and this has led to safety problems for the pharmacist concerned and their patients.

We are seeking the introduction of the AHPRA Pharmacy Board Guidelines on pharmacist workloads contained in their Guidelines for Dispensing of Medicines in the PIA.

These guidelines say that if dispensing levels are in the range of 150–200 scripts per day, trained dispensary assistants and/or intern pharmacists should be available to assist the pharmacist.  If the workload exceeds 200 scripts a day, additional pharmacists or dispensary assistants should be required to ensure adequate time is allowed to properly dispense every prescription in accordance with Pharmacy Board guidelines.

Workloads

Summary of PPA Claims

Summary