Discrimination: Know your rights and seek advice and support from the PDA

In our latest member voice article, Neera Goel, a PCN Pharmacist, Community Pharmacist, Revalidation Reviewer for the GPhC, and PDA Regional Committee Member (Wales and West of England), shares her experience of discrimination in the workplace and the importance of knowing your rights and what support is available to you from the PDA.

Thu 10th December 2020 The PDA

I realised my passion for pharmacy after I had an allergic reaction to Penicillin during my A-levels. My local pharmacist picked up on it and helped me to manage it immediately. My GP was informed and thanked the pharmacist. I was then inspired to learn more about the profession and how to help patients. I also wanted to become a pharmacist as my grandmother died from cancer and I was informed that pharmacists are involved in cancer treatments.

My course at King’s College London was very clinic-based and less patient-centred than some university courses are now. There was also not as much support for students. However, I still enjoyed my experience, it prepared me for a career in pharmacy and allowed me to gain experience in the industry, hospital, and community sectors.

Discrimination in the workplace

Throughout my career I have encountered discrimination in many forms, people would say things such as ‘are you expecting to become pregnant anytime soon’ when I applied for full-time employment. I also experienced sex discrimination when my male colleagues were offered more sociable hours than me.

Once, when I requested to move locations due to personal reasons, an area manager told me to ‘stop being a typical Asian girl by putting family first’ and instead try to put your career first. When I wanted to have time off during the Christmas holiday season for a family wedding, I was not allowed as I was not Christian and when I wanted time off in the summer holidays, my request was declined as I had no children.

“These incidents left me feeling angry and disappointed with how I was treated. I felt overlooked and discriminated against. However, I was naive and unaware that these events were examples of discrimination and were not acceptable.”

 

I did not resolve them. I ignored the comments. However, looking back, if I knew then what I know now, I would have challenged the individuals and would have raised these issues with the PDA to get advice… I would have taken it further.

I would advise any pharmacist that feels that they are experiencing discrimination in the workplace to always check with the PDA who can confirm whether it is discrimination and give you advice and guidance on how to address it.

With pharmacy, it is us versus them in the healthcare network. Even within the profession, the different sectors are segregated. To become a more inclusive profession, everyone in pharmacy needs to be on the same page and not divided through a ‘hierarchy’ system. We should support one another and work as one, despite what sector, religion, or title we have.

To help the pharmacy sector to become more equal, I feel there should be more transparency with all companies providing details of salaries and leadership roles based of age, gender, and ethnicity. There are so many experienced and knowledgeable pharmacists out there, yet it appears to always be the same group of people invited to speak or share their experiences at events, which does not demonstrate equality or diversity.

The support of the PDA

The PDA do more than just provide indemnity insurance. They speak up for pharmacists, pharmacy students and pre-regs and push for safer working environments both for pharmacists and patients. They fight for your rights and have been the most active voice in pharmacy for a number of years. They provide education programmes to prepare you for the registration exam and life as a pharmacist.

I have been a member of the PDA throughout my career, and it has always been a desire of mine to get involved in their work in some form. They have promoted their good work on behalf of pharmacists and have always been the loudest voice when injustice needed to be challenged.

In my role as a PDA Regional Committee Member, I work as part of a team as well as independently. I get to understand the challenges pharmacists may have in not speaking up and promote how the PDA can support them.

The PDA has representatives in many pharmacy sectors and has reps across the UK. They fight for the rights and safety of pharmacists, pharmacy students, pre-regs and patients. The reps raise any concerns that members have and ensure issues are addressed.

I would advise all pharmacists, pharmacy students and pre-regs to join the PDA. Any concerns should be raised with the union as they can provide clarity. Knowledge is power and they equip you so that you can challenge injustice or unsafe practice.

GPs value pharmacists immensely as we act as a safety net for them. However, I do not feel us pharmacists are able to demonstrate our full potential for other healthcare professionals to consider using us more often. Also, the government and NHS need to value pharmacists more by giving us the funding and recognition we deserve to help our patients.

During the peak of the pandemic, patients were hesitant or unsure whether to seek medical advice or help for their conditions, which resulted in their health deteriorating. There was also a rise in violence and discrimination within pharmacies.

As a result, earlier this year the PDA developed a zero tolerance of abuse poster as part of their long-running campaign to end violence in pharmacies, the campaign was supported by local police. It not only sent a message of support to pharmacists, but it also reassured pharmacies that violence would not be tolerated. This is just one example of the PDA’s work to support the profession.

By Neera Goel

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