PDA Union secures sick pay victory for Boots members transferring to Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust (RM Medicines)

The PDA Union has been representing members whose employment is transferring from Boots to a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

Mon 18th May 2020 The PDA

PDA Union negotiators hail outcome of discussions to ensure members transferring are not left without sick pay provision when transferred to new employer, illustrating the real benefit of belonging to a determined union like the PDA Union.

The PDA Union has been representing members whose employment is transferring from Boots to a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, because several hospital contracts operated by Boots are approaching their termination dates. Other transfers involving Boots employees are currently ongoing or have recently concluded. The NHS Trust can either negotiate an extension with the agreement of Boots, offer it out to competitive tender or choose to operate the service as a private business completely outside of the NHS, which is what Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust decided to do.

Under the Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment (TUPE) legislation members had the right to be represented by the PDA Union in these discussions, as a result of the recognition agreement secured with Boots last year. In addition, this right to recognition transfers with members ensuring the continuing right to be represented by the PDA Union on issues relating to their terms and conditions.

The same legislation also ensures members’ contracts of employment transfer to the new employer thus protecting their pay, hours, place of work and other contractual terms and conditions.

Significant problems were identified as the discussions developed particularly around issues that members quite rightly felt were contractual and should therefore be transferred.

The most important of these was sick pay arrangements. Prior to the announcement of the transfer the NHS Trust was informed by Boots what contractual terms it considers should transfer under TUPE and what benefits the company view as discretionary.  This information is used by the new employer to decide what discretionary benefits, if any, it will honour.

Both Boots and Royal Marsden adopted the view that these arrangements were not contractual, were therefore not transferring, and Royal Marden insisted transferring members would only be entitled to statutory sick pay arrangements.

Paul Day, PDA Director says “As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded during these discussions the attempts to leave our members with almost non-existent cover if they were to be taken ill simply became unacceptable. There was no possibility of us allowing members to be treated like this”.

The fact that it was an NHS Trust attempting to treat our members in this way during an unprecedented public health crisis made it even more unacceptable and increased further our determination to challenge this.

This week, however, we have received confirmation, via Boots, from the Royal Marsden that they will put in place a replica of the sick pay arrangement in place at Boots. This means this vitally important benefit, alongside the death in service benefit members receive through the Boots pension arrangements, will transfer and members will face no detriment because of the forced transfer of their employment. It almost goes without saying that the current situation shows just how important income protection during ill health is and therefore what an important result this is for our members.

It also illustrates the benefits of belonging to a determined union like the PDA Union, prepared to be pragmatic and work in partnership with employers, but not afraid to stand up on behalf of members when that is necessary.  On behalf of its members, the PDA Union took specialist legal advice which suggested that the discretionary status of the Boots sick pay scheme could be challenged once the transfer had taken place.  Union negotiators had informed Royal Marsden of our view and the new employer then decided to honour the Boots sick pay scheme for pharmacists.  The PDA Union team have a positive working relationship with the Boots department involved in the transfer and we understand they proposed that the new employer adopt the existing Boots sick pay scheme. Boots official position is that it believes its sick pay scheme is discretionary and not contractual.

Paul Moloney, PDA Union National Officer commented “The discussions with Boots and the Royal Marsden have shown that securing recognition and being able to negotiate on behalf of members so as to protect their interests has secured real benefits for members, at a time when those benefits are of critical importance, illustrating why every pharmacist in Boots should consider joining

In the last year Boots have transferred staff at several hospital dispensaries to new employers and also stated they hope to sell, and transfer staff, in a number of stores as part of their wider consolidation plan.

We now look forward to working constructively with the Royal Marsden, and its wholly owned subsidiary, on behalf of all of our members there”.

There is further good news for members transferring to the Royal Marsden. A further sticking point in the discussions was the refusal of the new employer to pay members GPhC registration fees.

Paul Day added “Of course we hope no member will need to use the sick pay scheme and it acts as a safety net only, giving piece of mind to members. The fact that we have also secured agreement regarding the payment of registration fees means every member directly benefits financially from the changes we have negotiated.

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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