Alliance Boots Changes to Terms & Conditions

The PDA has been contacted by a number of members regarding a leaflet entitled "Simplifying our Pay and Benefits at Boots" which they have recently received.

01-APR-11

The changes the document describes will have a fundamental impact on many of its most loyal and long serving pharmacist workforce. According to our members there was no individual or collective consultation regarding the change and they have only just become aware of what is happening. The PDA advice that follows focuses on the more significant changes described in the leaflet which take effect from 1st June 2011 that will severely impact on members who have a number of years service with the company.

These changes will have a fundamental impact on employees due to the substantial economic loss caused in some cases. Further the reductions in premium rates of pay may also have a discriminatory impact on part-time employees and/or women.

Legal position

Generally, an employer may change working conditions or practices if the change is agreed to either by contract or during the course of employment.

Terms in the contract of employment that are central to the working relationship are considered fundamental terms of the contract and should be set out in writing. Therefore when changes are considered, it is important that the employer seeking to make the change does so with consultation, notice and agreement. If Alliance Boots is determined to introduce such changes but is unable to obtain agreement they may still be able to impose them but may find this a difficult process that leaves it exposed to legal challenge on the basis these are unreasonable and unlawful.

Significant Changes

The changes will result in a detriment to some or all pharmacists who are involved in any of the working patterns listed below

Sunday Working

Pharmacists will be paid x1.5 normal pay or x1.5 time off in lieu. This is a fundamental change to an employee's terms and conditions for those who are normally paid at double time. Those employees currently receiving double pay for Sunday will lose out substantially particularly if they work regular Sundays, or only on that day.

Bank holiday working

Those pharmacists who currently receive an enhanced payment when working on a bank holiday when it is not their normal working day will now find that this is paid at single time.

Night working

Those pharmacists who currently receive an enhanced payment when working between 10pm and 5 am will now find that this is x1.2 their hourly rate

Evening premium

Those pharmacists who receive an evening premium of £2.00 for working beyond 7:00pm will no longer receive this

Alliance Boots Approach

It appears that the company is currently introducing the new terms via a document to be inserted in to their employee hand book, which may not be a contractual document but what is known as an 'instrument of change'. This potentially is a breach of contract, particularly when the terms they seek to vary or change (i.e. pay or benefits) are so fundamental and will have such a financial detriment to the employee. Furthermore, from the information provided by members so far, Alliance Boots are seeking a unilateral change without consultation.

PDA Advice

Doing nothing will mean that the cuts to pay will happen and the company may decide in future to further reduce pay and benefits to pharmacists, safe in the knowledge it has a compliant workforce willing to accept cuts to their pay and benefits. If the Company is unwilling to listen to its pharmacist workforce it may be able to force through the changes but after an initial review of the proposals and the relevant employment legislation, the PDA legal team believe that a case can be advanced that the imposition of these changes could be construed as a breach of contract.

To achieve the greatest chance of success it is important that all PDA Union members who are unhappy with the proposed changes follow the advice below carefully.

  • PDA Union members affected by these changes should decline to accept the new terms by writing to their line manager stating that they are not agreeing to the change to their pay rates for working certain days as this is not what they contractually agreed to do and they expect to be paid at the rate that they have agreed in their contract. In this communication members should also state that they are looking to their Union to support them in this matter and should a resolution not be reached by 1st June 2011 they will be working under protest at the new terms. Members should go on to state that they regard any reduction in their pay or benefits to represent an unlawful deduction of their wages, as they have neither agreed to the deduction, nor is it permitted under statute (ie tax or NI).
  • As well as lodging their objections, PDA Union members should contact the PDA Union and indicate their wish to join a collective grievance. The PDA Union will co-ordinate this by seeking direct contact with company representatives. This approach has proved effective in other organisations and if supported by a large number of affected individuals it can help encourage the company to revisit its proposals.

Summary

It is crucial to achieving a successful outcome that as many members affected by these changes sign up to the Collective Grievance. Please remember every pharmacist who signs up to the collective grievance increases the chance of a favourable resolution; every pharmacist who remains silent strengthens the company's position.

If you are unhappy with the changes, please do not sit back and rely on others to support the grievance. Apathy and ineffectual or uncoordinated action amongst pharmacists will give the company carte blanche to change terms and conditions in the future. In the leaflet much is made of the new "Reward Package" however the company's decision to reduce payments for Sunday work is entirely inconsistent with the concept of fairly rewarding employees.

Action required

  • Write as described above to your line manager objecting to the changes
  • Contact the PDA Union (enquiries@pda-union.org) to express your interest in joining the collective grievance
  • The PDA Union will keep your updated on developments

Thank you in anticipation of your support

Feedback

If you have any comments to make about this article or if you would like more information please fill out this form.

If you are directly affected by this issue and need advice please contact the office by telephone on 0121 694 7000.

Your Name
Email Address
Phone Number

Please type in your message below:

Over 22,000 pharmacists have already joined the PDA, Have you?
Our members save £5 when they renew online, Have you?
Thousands of pre-regs have claimed FREE membership, Have you?
Newly qualified pharmacists can join FREE for 3 months, Have you? Pharmacy undergraduates can join FREE! Have you?

Find out More about the PDA Union