Boots 2019/20 pay settlement – Frequently Asked Questions

The 2019/20 pay year is the first in which pharmacists have been able to collectively negotiate improvements to their pay at Boots.

Fri 1st November 2019 The PDA

The PDAU will issue further communications about the pay settlement in the weeks ahead, but these FAQs give some background and explanation to the pay settlement.

The formal agreement is detailed in the joint statement issued by PDAU and Boots.

Once you have read this article, please also read our article highlighting how this year’s pay settlement compares to 2018.

1. Why are the PDAU negotiating pay and conditions for pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacists at Boots?

After 8 years of Boots and the BPA’s agreement preventing pharmacists from being able to have their pay negotiated by an independent trade union, pharmacists used a legal process to hold a ballot that required the company to work with the PDAU, see here.

After the ballot was won, the PDAU negotiated a recognition agreement which includes the process of how annual pay negotiations will be undertaken, see here.

Negotiations by a trade union on behalf of groups of employees is known as collective bargaining.

2. Who are the PDAU negotiators?

The PDAU negotiating team includes pharmacists working at Boots from the PDAU network who are the employed union representatives within the company along with experienced negotiators from the union’s team.

These negotiators have been representing the views of PDAU members at Boots, including those received via our survey, see here.

3. Is this pay negotiation process going to be repeated every year?

Yes. Although this year was slightly different as the recognition agreement was not finalised until mid-July and so negotiations started later than will be the normal timetable.

As this was also the first year, we were also establishing ways of collective bargaining with the company as well as conducting this year’s pay negotiations. In future years these ways of working should become more established.

4. What was the pay claim?

A full 28-page pay claim was submitted just two days after the recognition agreement was signed.  A summary was published on-line, see here.

5. Did you ask for everything you wanted?

We have inherited a pay system introduced during a period when the previous agreement was in place between Boots and the Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA) which meant that pay awards lacked transparency and were decided by the company. Pharmacists told us that this previously unchallenged pay system was complex and poorly understood which has meant this year we have had to spend time on establishing principles which will be the foundations for future negotiations.

Our objective this year, as it will be in the future, was to deliver improvements to both the pay of pharmacists and to the pay system so that we make a sustainable long-term improvement to the employment of pharmacists at Boots.

Each year we’ll include the priority issues in the pay claim and over time we believe there is scope to create a market-leading employment proposition at Boots to help the company prosper.

6. What was agreed?

The formal agreement is detailed in the joint statement issued by PDAU and Boots. This was the outcome from a series of meetings lasting over several months.

7. Why didn’t you achieve everything you asked for?

We recognise that there are some challenges to company finances including that profits have dropped and we are in a period with a poor pharmacy contract settlement, store closures and recent redundancies in head office.  This means company budgets are lower than in more prosperous times.

We believe the company should invest in pharmacists with at least the same priority that they are planning to invest in-store designs and brands, as it is after all pharmacy that drives the business and the brand it is built upon. This approach would help the company prosper and we believe the company is being shortsighted by bringing down salaries in real terms for employed pharmacists which means higher vacancy rates which in turn leads to higher recruitment and locum costs.

We believe if our full pay claim had been met then this would have provided both short and long term benefits to the company.  However, the current management does not fully agree with our position and so through negotiations, we have had to debate many aspects and eventually reach a compromise acceptable to both sides and which is affordable in the present climate.

This pay settlement is the best we are going to achieve through negotiation, and you can read how it compares to last years settlement here.

8. Who receives the improvements you have negotiated?

Pharmacists or pre-registration trainees within the bargaining unit (the group of employees for whom PDAU now collectively bargain) receive improvements to their pay, whether or not they are a PDAU member.

However, we remind everyone that the more members we have in the union, then the greater our ability to speak on behalf of all the bargaining unit and secure better pay and benefits for you.

If you are not a member yet, you can join here.

9. Who is in the bargaining unit?

The bargaining unit consists of registered and pre-registration store-based
pharmacists at levels 5, 6 and 7 who are:

(i) Store-based Pharmacists;
(ii) Relief Pharmacist;
(iii) Care Services Pharmacist;
(iv) Advanced Practitioner Pharmacist;
(v) Specialist Practitioner;
(vi) Pre-Registration Pharmacist; and
(vii) Pharmacist Store Manager.

10. Some aspects of the pay settlement are also being applied to other groups of employees. Have you also negotiated for them?

No, at this current time we only negotiate for the bargaining unit detailed above and not for any other groups.

The 1% non-consolidated payments to those at above 120% of the market median rate were included in our pay claim submitted in July this year and members report that this benefit has also been applied to other groups outside of the bargaining unit.

Those individuals who through their hard work and loyalty, have reached the top of the salary band for their role, have in some cases, not had any pay increases for a number of years, yet their cost of living increase is the same as everyone else, so just as we think this is right to be recognised for PDAU members, we also think this is sensible to apply to other groups.

The PDAU originally wanted the bargaining unit to include all employed pharmacists but the company successfully argued to exclude certain job roles and unfortunately, some pharmacists are not able to benefit from the collective bargaining arrangements at this present time, however we are pleased to note that other pharmacist roles outside the scope of the current bargaining arrangement will also benefit from the 1% increase that featured in our pay claim.

11. I’m not in the bargaining unit, how can I get a union negotiating my pay?

Join a union, encourage colleagues to join the same union and when there are enough members your union can apply for recognition to negotiate for you too.

If you are a pharmacist, then join us.

If you are not a pharmacist then we recommend you consider joining USDAW, who are the UK’s leading trade union in the retail sector, see here.

12. How can I help the PDAU?

Join and be engaged with your union.  Speak regularly to your PDAU Regional or Divisional Representative at Boots.

Forward our communications to colleagues; share our social media posts, respond to our surveys and to other calls to action. Encourage your colleagues to join too.

Exercise the rights we secure for you through our negotiations and make sure your voice is heard by participating and encouraging others to join the PDAU.

13. Why are there other clauses in the pay settlement and not just a simple percentage increase figure?

How you get paid under a pay system in a company like Boots depends on several things.

  • Pay,
  • The “rules” of the pay system, and
  • How those rules are applied.

In addition to securing increases to pay we have also agreed other matters than will improve how you are treated under the pay system.  This includes how time for training is treated and clarification on the new holiday pay benefits. See the full agreement here. 

Without adequate rules or with inconsistent application of these rules, the risk of inequality increases and so one of the follow-up actions agreed with the company is to jointly check the pay system data on equality of pay between colleagues.

14. What is meant by “the market rate” for a role at Boots?

In common with many other organisations, Boots have decided to adopt a market-rate based pay system.  Boots submits descriptions of roles and the salaries they pay for these roles to companies that provide salary comparison services.  Those companies also get that information from similar employers and then provide the range of salaries which are paid for that sort of role.

Boots have decided to tie their salaries to the market median average salary and so the “market-rate” Boots use to create their pay ranges is based on a market median average pay.

Boots set salary ranges as being between 80% -120% of the market-median-rate, which means everyone paid below the market-median (paid between 80-99% of the market-rate) is also working for below-market-average pay across the overall UK market.  In future years, we will be working with Boots to continue to improve terms to reflect the ‘World Class’ quality of Boots pharmacists.

15. How do I calculate the percentage of the market rate that I am paid?

From the internal Pharmacy Unscripted website, you will be able to discover the salary range for their role.   The market median rate is 1.25 times the bottom of the range figure, which gives the market median average salary for that role.

For example, if the salary range is £32,000 – £48,000 then the market median rate would be:   1.25 * £32,000 = £40,000 for that role.

Divide your salary by the market median rate for your role and multiply by 100 to give the percentage of the market median rate that you are being paid.

For example, if the market median rate was £40,000 and your salary was £36,000 then the calculation would be

£36,000/£40,000 = 0.9

0.9 * 100 = 90%

If you work part-time, please remember to use your full-time equivalent pay when doing this calculation. FTE is based on 40 hours per week.

16. How do I get my opinion included in the forthcoming pay claim?

Through the year, talk to your PDAU network at Boots and respond to any surveys we issue so that we hear your opinion and understand your priorities.

Now please also read our article highlighting how this year’s pay settlement compares to 2018. 

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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