Feedback for Exemptions and Exclusions Under the Employment Standards Act

Pharmacist  ·  Nov. 18, 2017

Dear Minister of Labour, I am contacting you regarding the urgent need for amending the 2000 Employment Standards Act to legislate daily rest periods or breaks for pharmacists.

The 2000 Employment Standards Act outlines that pharmacists are exempt from various labour regulations, including the lack of regulated rest periods. In addition, pharmacists are also exempt from hours of work regulations. In essence, a pharmacist can work for a period of 14 hours without a break of any kind. Consequently, lack of rest regulations pose major threats to the health of pharmacists. In addition, such lack of regulations can adversely affect patients’ safety. Working long hours without break periods can adversely affect the pharmacist’s mental alertness and can detrimentally impact a patient’s health.

More importantly, not allotting daily breaks for pharmacists constitutes a violation of Article 23 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration, which states “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment”. By not allotting rest periods, pharmacists are exposed to non-favourable work conditions that can have detrimental impacts on pharmacists and consequently, the patients.

A small survey conducted on the Canadian Healthcare Network website asked the question of “Should regulators require that pharmacists take breaks to protect patient safety?”. There was an overwhelming response supporting the need to regulated breaks for pharmacists, with 88 percent in favor, 10 percent against and 2 percent responded with not sure. Community pharmacists supporting the need for regulatory break cited many reasons for this need, including the importance of such breaks for patient safety and health of the pharmacists. For example, a community pharmacist indicated that such breaks are important “Both for patient safety and for the health of the pharmacist! I work 11 hours straight through, some days with a quick bite to eat between calls, counseling, and checking prescriptions, plus 1 or 2 bathroom visits. Some days I don't at all. Perhaps if corporate were forced to pay me for the time when I don't take breaks, they might be more likely to promote them”.

While pharmacists are exempt from various labour regulations, being exempt from daily rest period regulations constitutes a major violation for their universal human rights. To protect pharmacists’ human rights and better protect Canadian patients, it is of utter importance to regulate daily break periods for community pharmacists.
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