Feedback for Exemptions and Exclusions Under the Employment Standards Act

Pharmacist  ·  Nov. 27, 2017

Pharmacists are human beings first of all and the ESA is supposed to protect any employed human being from deleterious working conditions, regardless of the setting. There is absolutely no reason why pharmacists should be exempted from mandatory rest periods, overtime pay, eating periods, personal emergency leave, right to refuse and cancellation of shift. It is realistic and possible to reconcile ESA and business side of pharmacy operations. On the other hand without ESA, pharmacists will be subject to overwork and higher risk of medication related errors for the public, especially within the context of continuous reduction in pharmacy assistant hours, at least that being the trend within a big retail chain I work for.

About half of pharmacies in Ontario belong to big retail businesses like Shoppers Drug Mart/Loblaws, Rexall, Walmart etc and pharmacists work hours will be directly linked to the store opening/closing times as well as pharmacy manager scheduling style. Most stores are open 9-11 nowadays. I have experience with working long, 13 hr shifts and from that experience I know that I can provide a much better patient care if I work for 8 hours versus 13 hours. What happens during those long shifts is that due to insufficient pharmacist support staff (i.e. assistants and technicians), a pharmacist won’t have any time to rest, especially in a busier retail setting. I’ve experienced feeling dizzy and close to fainting, simply because I had no time to have a break and proper meal. There’s so much that a human body can take. As a pharmacy manager I am noticing that there’s also more and more work that has to be done at home, because there’s no time to perform those administrative tasks in the pharmacy. I’ve been working in pharmacy for over 7 years and I can say that just like a family doctor’s office that closes for break, same situation applies for a pharmacist place of work – it does not regularly include the need to deal with unpredictable events arising from client needs, workplace staffing, produc perishability, nature of technology or nature of the work process. Most patients using retail pharmacy services are stable on long-term medication or if this is something that is required sooner, patient is in a stable enough condition to wait for 30 minutes for pharmacist break to be over. I often hear from my patients: how come you don’t get a break, this is not good, a pharmacist should have some rest. So, patients understand that the nature of my job requires me to be very alert, focused and attentive to every detail. Patients understand and pharmacist breaks, because they most probably enjoy that right at their own place of work and understand how important it is. Also, once the law comes in effect (and I see no reason why it shouldn’t), patients will easily adapt and will get used to pharmacy being closed for a lunch break, because it will be everywhere the same. There is no need for a fundamental change, pharmacy premise can still be open, schedule 3 products can be locked while pharmacist is on break. Certain services that doesn’t require pharmacist involvement can still be provided, pharmacy doesn’t have to close – assitant can keep taking phone calls, accept prescriptions etc. Only pharmacist related services will be held for 30 minutes. There are many ways to ensure that there’s minimal impact on pharmacy business.

I am glad that this conversation started and I am confident that good change is coming for pharmacists and for the public they willingly serve on a daily basis.

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