Posted by James Sage, Partner
Key employment law issues for pharmacies
2018 has brought a few changes in employment law which are directly relevant to pharmacy owners. More changes are still to come, with post-Brexit immigration system – which is expected to be unveiled this month – likely to affect workforce in the pharmacy and broader healthcare sector. Our Health & Social Care team brings you a roundup of the changes and steps you can take now to mitigate risks.
Whistleblowing –personal liability for directors
Due to the nature of their work, pharmacy staff will often raise issues that amount to a ‘protected disclosure’ for the purposes of whistleblowing legislation.
In a very significant decision on liability under the whistleblowing legislation, the Court of Appeal has ruled that directors (or other co-workers) who dismiss an employee for making protected disclosures can be held personally liable, as well as the employer being vicariously liable.
In Timis and anor v Osipov  EWCA Civ 2321, the Court ruled that two directors were personally liable for the payment of an award of over £2m when they were found responsible for dismissing a colleague as a result of making protected disclosures.
Usually claimants will prioritise a claim against the employer on the basis that the company has deeper pockets than its directors. In this case, however, the company was insolvent and so it made sense for the claimant to sue the directors personally.
The outcome of this case will make it far more likely that claims will be brought against directors personally (as well as against companies), so directors should ensure that they have the protection of directors’ and officers’ liability insurance and take specialist advice when dealing with whistleblowing allegations.
Employment status: locums
Whilst locums may be described as self-employed, and enjoy self-employed status for tax purposes, this does not prevent them being deemed employees or workers for employment law purposes.
There have been a number of high profile recent cases (e.g. against Uber and Pimlico Plumbers) where people labelled as self-employed have successfully argued that they are workers or employees, with the result that they were entitled to additional employment rights such as holiday pay, sick pay and protection against unlawful discrimination (and in the case of employees only, the right to claim unfair dismissal). Wrongly identifying the status of locums can give rise to Employment Tribunal claims and create significant financial liability.
You need to be alive to this risk, particularly where you are using a locum on a regular basis or where the nature of the relationship has changed from what was envisaged at the outset. You also need to ensure that the contract properly reflects the status of the locum.
Brexit – immigration White Paper
The number of European pharmacists registering with the General Pharmaceutical Council to practise in the UK has fallen significantly since the Brexit referendum, with some estimates showing an 80% drop.
The imminent White Paper on post-Brexit immigration policy is likely to introduce a restrictive visa system for staff within the EEA (similar to the Tier 2 system for workers from outside the EEA) which could make it significantly more difficult to recruit EU staff for your pharmacy.
If you rely on EU staff in your pharmacy, you need to start preparing a Brexit workforce strategy and ensure that they have a robust recruitment and retention plan in place to minimise the risk of staff shortages.
We can help
Whether you are just starting out or are an established operator, our multi-disciplinary Health & Social Care team is at hand to provide specialist advice. We offer specialist employment advice for pharmacy owners, making sure that you stay up to date with legal developments and compliant with ever-changing employment law requirements.
Our Pharmacy Adviser Service includes:
- HR and employment law advice
- drafting staff contracts, policies and handbooks
- immigration advice
- legal expenses insurance against Employment Tribunal claims
- company legal expenses insurance
directors’ and officers’ liability insurance.
For expert HR & Employment advice for pharmacy owners, please contact James Sage on:
01225 730 231 Email us
Health & Social Care
Part of your trusted team, on hand to provide expert advice