Case Study: Constructive Dismissal at Boots

The PDA Union have recently seen the judgement of a Scottish Employment Tribunal where a trainee pharmacy technician at Boots was constructively dismissed after being given a final written warning. This was despite DISPROVING an allegation made in a customer complaint that she had breached confidentiality.

Wed 28th November 2018 PDA Union

We encourage anyone who doubts why joining a trade union is an essential requirement when working in the pharmacy sector, to see for themselves what happened to this loyal, high performing member of staff at the hands of incompetent management.

This case demonstrates how company managers badly treated someone with more than a decade of loyal service, whose annual appraisals had always been excellent and who had been awarded an honorarium for her work.  As the PDA Union only accepts pharmacists into membership, this person wasn’t eligible to join us, but we’re pleased to see that with the support of her trade union she finally managed to get justice through the courts.

As the disciplinary process and subsequent appeal progressed, the individual was unfortunately off sick with stress.  Boots management advised her BY TEXT MESSAGE that they were withholding her sick pay.  It took weeks for managers to let her know the result of her disciplinary appeal and grievance hearing, despite the technician asking them to let her know what was happening.

When it was put to the individual’s manager during the hearing that the management had not conducted a full investigation into the alleged incident, because no investigations were conducted with the patient who had complained, the Boots representative stated that this was not something the company normally do.

The Tribunal’s judgement described how Boots’ management had been unreasonable and the disciplinary manager had a “fundamental lack of understanding” of her function.  Some of the claims from Boots’ management are described in the judgement as being “incomprehensible”, “astounding” and “manifestly inappropriate”.  The Judge commented that the company’s investigation “was not balanced. It was fundamentally flawed..”

The company alleged the pharmacy technician had made comments that could cause embarrassment for Boots; however, ironically the incompetence of company managers has resulted in this case being reported in the media and demonstrating to the general public the reality of employment practices at Boots.

Mark Pitt, Assistant General Secretary of PDA Union said “I recognise similarities in this case to others we have dealt with in Boots.  Whilst all complaints need to be taken seriously, unfortunately there seems to be an unwillingness to properly investigate patient complaints.  The company’s acknowledgement that they don’t normally do full investigations would be a sad admission by any employer, and certainly not what you’d expect from the largest pharmacy multiple in the UK with stringent regulatory obligations. 

This was a serious complaint which could have had significant professional ramifications if it involved a pharmacist.  This is not the first time that Boots have been heavily criticised by a judge for the poor quality of their investigations into professional complaints, as reported in the PDA magazine INSIGHT (see article at the bottom of this page).

We have also supported PDA Union members in cases where the management have overreacted to allegations from customers and as this tribunal stated Boots would do better to remember that in addition to their duty to customers they also have a duty to take reasonable steps to maintain the trust and confidence of their employee.  The Judge stated that Boots conducted itself in a manner likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between employer and employee.

You can read a PDF of the full judgement of the Technician’s case here:

Although the PDA Union are already able to represent members in formal processes, we want to work with the company to improve employee relations and avoid these sorts of problems happening in the first place.  Pharmacists at Boots are currently preparing for a ballot to get recognition for the PDA Union.  The ballot period is scheduled to start on 4th February 2019 and will run for five weeks.   Pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacists at grade 5, 6 & 7 in stores will be entitled to vote.  Read more here


thumbnail of Whistleblowing two page article

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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