Should Boots be proud of their pay practice?

A senior company director recently said that Boots are “proud of [its] market-leading levels of pay for [its] pharmacy population.” So we want to explain what that pay system involves.

Sat 19th January 2019 PDA Union

In 2015 the company unilaterally decided that the minimum starting salary for a pharmacist at Boots (ie: the minimum of the salary range) is just 80% of the median average salary they believe is already paid to pharmacists doing similar roles for other employers in the market.

A pharmacist on this starting salary rate of the market pay band may remain on a below market rate for several years until they eventually reach the range midpoint, a level which those working for other employers on average achieved years ago.  Worse still we understand that under this system 100’s of Pharmacists who through their loyalty and high performance are at the top of their market pay band, receive no pay increase at all.

How quickly your pay reaches the median market rate depends on your performance management rating, but pharmacists and their managers at Boots know that the company require a certain proportion of people in the role to be graded at a level below performing, a process known as forced distribution.

To meet the company requirement that 15% of all its pharmacists must be graded as underperforming, this equates to around 1000 pharmacists every year.

We are told by Pharmacists that Managers meet without the people they are talking about and decide who will get which rating.  These meetings are typically not documented, and important decisions are made behind closed doors about an individual’s performance that have far reaching consequences for their pay and bonus entitlement. So a pharmacist’s pay increase doesn’t only depend on how you’ve performed but also how well your manager argues for you (or against you).

If you remain with Boots long enough to reach the market average pay, then future pay increases slow down and may eventually stop even though your experience continues to grow and the expectations of your performance remain the same or even increase.

On average 9 out of 10 pharmacists who seek the support of the PDA Union team in challenging their year-end pay award are successful in getting a higher award which suggests that this system is just not working and is not robust.

But we should also be very aware that pharmacists at Boots aren’t expected to just deliver market “average” performance.  From day one they are expected to have

high levels of professional expertise*

first class communication skills*

excellent knowledge of pharmacy operations and provisions of national and local services*


Work to deliver world class professional services*

–  [be] setting the standard of what a brilliant pharmacy ‘looks and feels like’ from an operational perspective*

*all quotes from a recent Boots job vacancy advertisement

Boots senior management may be proud with this current set-up, where above average demands put on a Boots pharmacist can earn so many of the people they manage a below average wage. Where a pharmacist’s performance rating isn’t just about their individual performance and where long service doesn’t give the reward people feel they deserve; however we’d like to give them a reason to feel even prouder.

Pharmacists want a situation where all the pharmacists being asked to perform at well above market average levels are paid salaries which are above average too.  We’d like a transparent and easy to operate performance management system where you can receive an appraisal rating based on how you did against achievable targets which are agreed with you in advance and which you have the necessary resources to achieve.

By standing together as the PDA Union, we can secure recognition and as a recognised independent trade union we can negotiate matters relating to your pay. So, let’s all give the senior management something they can be really proud about. Let’s work together to improve the pay arrangements for pharmacists at Boots.   Vote “YES” in the recognition ballot by returning your completed ballot paper without delay.

The ballot period at Boots is scheduled to start on 4th February 2019 and will run for five weeks.  Approximately 7,000 Pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacists at grade 5, 6 & 7 in stores will be entitled to vote and if 40% or more vote for PDA Union to be recognised the senior management will have to agree a recognition agreement.  Boots is the first employer which the PDA Union are taking through the legal process to secure recognition, but the aim is to secure recognition wherever their members work.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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