The Royal Pharmaceutical Society
The Pharmaceutical Journal
Law and Ethics Bulletin
This organization, I believe, is the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the APhA.
Since the powers at our APhA would never dirty their hands or soil their reputations
with such a mundane, and non-important issue, where do we look for an organization that will?
This may be like a national board. Who wants to find out? Regardless, we need statements
like this from official organizations that carry weight. Is that APhA? Yeah Sure!
Making adequate provisions for pharmacists to have appropriate rest breaks
Pharmacists’ prime concern must be for the safety and well being of patients and the public. Working for extended hours without taking appropriate rest breaks can adversely affect a pharmacist’s ability to practice safely and may compromise patient care. Pharmacists, pharmacy owners and pharmacy managers should therefore ensure that provisions are in place to allow pharmacists to have appropriate rest breaks.
The Code of Ethics supports this requirement by stating that pharmacists should ensure that they do not work in conditions that they do not work in conditions that do not enable them to comply with the key responsibilities of a pharmacist. Similarly, there is a professional requirement for pharmacy owners, pharmacists and pharmacy managers to ensure that they do not seek to impose conditions on pharmacists that may adversely affect their ability to comply with their professional and legal duties. It is essential to encourage pharmacists to take appropriate breaks, and requiring an employee pharmacist to work for extended periods without adequate provision for rest breaks could constitute a breach of the Code of Ethics.
A pharmacist’s capacity to undertake his or her professional duties safely for specified periods, without a break, will differ between individuals. It will also depend on various factors such as the tasks being undertaken, the complexity of patients’ needs, the level of trained support staff on duty, prescription volume and the level of over-the-counter business. Pharmacists and their employers should give particular consideration to the provision of appropriate rest breaks for pharmacist who work extended hours pharmacies, provide on call services or travel long distances to their place of work.
When agreeing working hours and breaks be taken during the working day, employers and employees should take note of the Working Time Regulations 1998. These state that if an employee is required to work for more than six hours at a time, he or she is entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes. The break should be taken during the six-hour period rather than at the beginning or the end, but the exact time at which breaks are taken is left to the discretion of the employer. Employees are entitled to have a minimum 11 hours rest between working days and cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours a week on average.
While the Working Time Regulations can provide a useful benchmark, more frequent breaks may be required, for example, where high volumes of prescriptions are being dispensed. Employers are responsible for making sure that their employees can take a rest break, but they are not required to make sure that the break is taken.
The right to rest breaks does not apply where a job requires round-the-clock staffing, such as in hospitals, and exceptions can be made for emergencies or busy periods.
The above principles and guidelines also apply to Registered Pharmacy Technicians.
While a pharmacist is taking a break, robust standard operating procedures should be in place to ensure that no activities take place that require the pharmacist’s personal involvement or oversight. All pharmacy support staff should be aware of these procedures and patients should be advised of when a pharmacist is not available and when he or she is due to return.