COVID-19 VACCINATIONS: If, in addition to indemnity for your main employment, you would like cover for delivering COVID-19 Vaccinations please apply for our standalone extension Apply Today

Home   »   Derecognition Archive   »   Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA)

Boots Pharmacists’ Association (BPA)

The BPA is a non-independent union whose members are pharmacists and pre-registration graduates working for Boots

The BPA applied for recognition as an independent trade union. The decision was published in 2013. It was the first union to have its application for a certificate of independence refused in more than twelve years and the third such union to have it refused since 1996. link

The certification officer found that Boots helps the BPA to recruit its officials and contributes funding to support BPA publications. BPA officials are almost exclusively comprised of Boots employees. It has been referred to as:

  • an in-house, non-independent consultative body by judge Sir Brian Keith. link
  • a sweetheart union in a human rights blog and elsewhere in the press link link link
  • a company union and a yellow union by the Guardian link
  • a meek union by the Central Arbitration Committee link
  • a union liable to interference tending towards domination or control by Boots by the Trades Union Certification Officer link

HR magazine published an article about the agreement between the BPA and Boots, describing the “sweetheart” arrangements. It said:

HR magazine published an article about the agreement between the BPA and Boots, describing the “sweetheart” arrangements. It said:

A ‘sweetheart deal’ describes a deal between an employer and trade union officials that benefit them both at the expense of the employee.

HR Magazine

An excerpt from the Trades Union Certification Officer’s decision following the BPA’s application for a certificate of independence reads:

It is rather by stepping back from the detail of the relationship between the BPA and Boots and looking at the picture as a whole that there emerges, in my judgement, a clear image of a union that has over the years been drawn into a situation in which it is indeed liable to interference by Boots… tending towards domination or control.

Trades Union Certification Officer

It was found that the BPA had a weak financial base, was dependent on the good will of Boots to continue the check off arrangement, received financial and other material support from Boots and lacked any detailed contingency plans should Boots discontinue the arrangement. For these reasons, the decision was taken not to grant the BPA status as an independent union.

One of the BPA’s key roles should be to challenge Boots when necessary, in order to represent its members. However, the constitution of the BPA says, amongst other things, that its purpose is “to foster a spirit of mutual dependence and trust between the pharmacists of Boots the Chemists and the management of Boots the Chemists”.link

Following the PDAU’s application for recognition, the BPA appeared to unite with Boots, saying “Boots and the union Boots Pharmacy Association (BPA) have pledged to fight a ruling that has brought the PDA one step closer to formally representing the health and beauty giant’s employees.”link

Astonishingly, although the BPA provides indemnity insurance, Boots worked with the BPA to persuade employees that they do not need to carry their own personal indemnity insurance and could rely upon their employer to support them in the event of errors or complaints. Failing that, the BPA has been encouraging Boots pharmacists to take out PI insurance with the NPA (an organisation which represents employers).link

A table comparing the PDA Union with the BPA can be found here.


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.

Cookie Use

This website uses cookies to help us provide the best user experience. If you continue browsing you are giving your consent to our use of cookies.

General Guidance Resources Surveys PDA Campaigns Regulations Locums Indemnity Arrangements Pre-Regs & Students FAQs Coronavirus (COVID-19)