Rostering tips for pharmacies

Rostering tips for pharmacies

Having seen some of the common roster problems that occur in pharmacy, I’ve developed these tips to assist pharmacy owners and managers with rostering. Firstly, it’s important to understand the meaning of Ordinary Hours, particularly in relation to permanent part-time employment as these contracted hours have ramifications for rostering.

  1. Understand the meaning of Ordinary Hours

In my experience it’s very common in pharmacy for part-time employees to be rostered like casual employees and there are risks associated with this.

Part-time employees are employed for a predetermined number of Ordinary Hours, which are anything less than full-time hours (fulltime is always an average of 38 Ordinary Hours per week, so anything less than this is part-time employment).

In employment law, the term Ordinary Hours has an important meaning; they are the contracted hours. These are the work hours you as the employer are obliged by law to make available to the employee and the employee is obliged by law to work those hours. The Ordinary hours that an employee works has implications for how you calculate and pay public holidays, sick pay, annual leave, etc. Changing the days and times of when those (total) hours are worked is simply a change of roster. Relatively easy to do (although it can have implications for public holidays and personal leave)!

Changing the total Ordinary Hours that an employee works is another thing altogether: that’s a change of contract and ideally this should be confirmed in writing. For example, some pharmacies use forms to confirm these changes in writing.

Importantly, you can’t employ someone for more than the average of 38 Ordinary Hours per week. Additional hours are generally overtime hours, although there are other ways you can deal with these hours, with an employee’s agreement (such as time off in lieu of overtime, salaried employment, and through Individual Flexibility Agreements).

It’s a good idea to be clear in your own mind about the Ordinary Hours that your permanent (part-time and full-time) employees work and to make sure that the total Ordinary Hours of your part-timers are relatively stable.

  1. Take advantage of Clause 11.2 in the Pharmacy Industry Award 2010

There is a good clause in the Pharmacy Industry Award that allows you to vary the number of work hours for part-time employees, without varying their Ordinary Hours. It’s a clause that you won’t find in all Awards and it gives pharmacies flexibility (and from my experience pharmacies need this flexibility). It’s a clause I think more pharmacies should be taking advantage of. However, while it’s a good clause from an employment law perspective, it can be a pain for payroll to administer.

Clause 11.2 deals with “additional hours as casual hours”:

A part-time employee who has worked their agreed hours may agree to work additional hours which are not reasonably predictable up to the daily, weekly or fortnightly maximum ordinary hours of work provided by the award, as a casual employee and subject to the casual employee provisions of this award.

This agreement should be in writing and it could be included in the contract of employment or as a separate agreement between the employer and employee.

As an example, if a part-time adult Pharmacy Assistant (paid at the Level 1 rate in the Award) is employed for 32 Ordinary Hours per fortnight, with that person’s agreement, they could work an extra 8 casual hours for the pharmacy. In this case, the Pharmacy Assistant’s pay for that fortnight would be 32 Ordinary Hours at the current rate of $20.08 per hour – assuming that the work hours are between 8am and 7pm, Monday to Friday (these hours accumulate annual leave and personal leave, as do all Ordinary Hours). For the 8 casual hours, the rate of pay would be in accordance with the Award (e.g. $25.10 for work hours between 8am and 7pm Monday to Friday) and there would be no annual leave or personal leave accumulations for these hours.

  1. Plan ahead and roster permanent staff for public holidays.

If your pharmacy opens on public holidays, there is a significant difference in cost between rostering a permanent as opposed to a casual employee to work on a public holiday.

For example, where a permanent employee’s normal work roster is 9am to 5pm on a Monday, if they work these same hours on a public holiday that falls on a Monday, the employee would be paid 225% for all hours (let’s say 7.5 hours, if you take into account an unpaid lunch break of 30 minutes). So a Level 1 Pharmacy Assistant would be paid 7.5 hours X (20.08 X 2.25) = $338.85 for the day.

If the permanent employee had to be replaced by a casual, this is what it would cost the pharmacy:

  • the permanent employee would be paid at ordinary rates for the 7.5 hours ($150.60) as their entitlement to the public holiday;
  • the casual employee would be paid 7.5 hours X (20.08 X 2.50) = $376.50;
  • which means the total cost of covering the 7.5 hour shift would be $527.10.

In this case, you would save $188.25 by rostering a permanent employee instead of a casual employee to work on the public holiday.

Of course, it’s not always going to be possible for a pharmacy to roster permanent employees to work on public holidays. Permanent employees have an entitlement to take the public holidays. However, permanent employees are also required to work a “reasonable” amount of overtime, which (in most cases) would include the requirement to work some public holidays.

By planning ahead and seeking a commitment from your permanent employees to work at least some public holidays, you can reduce the cost of opening on public holidays. For example, I know some pharmacy owners that seek commitment from their permanent employees to work some public holidays at the beginning of the year (e.g. they may raise it at a staff meeting and obtain commitment from individual employees for particular public holidays throughout the year).

Please contact us if you would like further advice on rostering.

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John Girardi

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