Community pharmacy owners will be under tough scrutiny when the Fair Work Ombudsman starts an audit of up to 400 stores across Australia after pharmacy was identified as “a persistent source of complaints”.
The Fair Work Ombudsman revealed that more than 2300 calls had been made to the Fair Work Infoline in the last financial year from people working in the industry, with pharmacy generating 200 complaints between July 2010 and September 2012.
Nicholas Wilson, the Fair Work Ombudsman, has written to pharmacy owners as part of a national education and compliance campaign to help them comply with workplace laws, ahead of April’s audit.
“This campaign provides a great opportunity for employers to improve their awareness and understanding of workplace laws,” he said.
During the audit, Fair Work inspectors will check that employers are paying pharmacists and pharmacy assistants in line with minimum wage rates, penalty rates, overtime and minimum hours of engagement.
They will also monitor employers’ compliance with record-keeping and pay slip obligations.
Mr Wilson said pharmacy was selected for a national campaign after considering feedback from a range of sources, and because it had be a persistent source of complaints.
APESMA, the union which represents some employee pharmacists, welcomed the official announcement of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s audit of pharmacy.
Chris Walton, APESMA CEO, said the audit would “help expose the culture of underpayments” in community pharmacy.
“Pharmacists deserve to be paid their full wages, not have them seriously eroded by illegal workplace practices,” he said.
“Further, pharmacy owners working within the rules should not be disadvantaged by those owners who increase their profits by illegally exploiting their employees.”
However, a spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia rejected APESMA’s claims.
“This is also untrue, and a slur on Australia’s trusted network of community pharmacies. APESMA should stop beating up on pharmacy in a transparent effort to boost its dwindling membership,” the spokesperson said.
“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is confident that the overwhelming majority of community pharmacies act in good faith to comply fully with the Pharmacy Industry Award 2010.
“The Guild urges its members to comply with all terms and conditions in the award, and to address any inadvertent non-compliance quickly when it is identified.
“The Guild remains confident that the vast majority of pharmacists are paid appropriately and in many cases are paid above the award rate.”