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.
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.
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.
The changes will result in a detriment to some or all pharmacists who are involved in any of the working patterns listed below
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Thank you in anticipation of your support