As we are all aware, the introduction of 60 day dispensing and a tight retail environment presents a series of challenges for pharmacies, one of which is finding innovative ways to offset any negative consequences to profitability. As pharmacy accounting specialists and business advisors, we have been working with our pharmacy clients on ways to address revenues and profitability. It is important to consider what role workforce planning can play to ensure pharmacies are flexible and can adapt to possible shifts in potential operating models. This may include considering whether there is a need to change your structure, change work hours, and, in some regrettable cases, possibly consider redundancies.

We have partnered with boutique human resources (HR) consultancy firm, Bespoke HR, to highlight key considerations in navigating workforce planning in this new environment, as 60 day dispensing and environmental factors change the pharmacy landscape. In our first of two blogs on this topic, we will explore:

  • What workforce planning is and discuss some key areas for pharmacy organisations to consider when reviewing their workforce
  • Discuss the key requirements under the Pharmacy Modern Award 2020 when undertaking workforce planning activities such as redundancies and changing work hours.

What is workforce planning?

Workforce planning is a systematic approach to identifying current and future staffing needs to achieve business goals. In the current pharmacy landscape, this involves addressing factors such as script reduction, changes in consumer behaviour, and shifts in healthcare delivery.

When reviewing your workforce needs, consider the following:

  • Staffing levels

Begin by assessing your current staffing levels in relation to your forecasted workload and demand. The goal is to ensure that you have the right number of employees and employee types (casual, full-time and part-time) with the right skills to meet customer needs effectively and review whether you have the ability to flex up and down as required.

  • Skill sets and training

Identify the skills and competencies your organisation requires to adapt to changing roles. Determine if additional training or upskilling is necessary. Additionally encourage and facilitate opportunities for cross-skilling among different roles to ensure flexibility within your workforce. This is critical where you may be looking to downsize your workforce.

  • Technology integration

Explore how technology can enhance efficiency. Digital tools for tasks such as prescription processing, inventory management, and appointment scheduling can free up staff for more critical tasks.

Key requirements for restructures and changes to employment conditions

After reviewing your workforce, you may find that you need to restructure and / or make some changes which could involve changes to job roles, responsibilities, and changes in work hours or employment role status, such as full-time to part time employment.

Changes of this nature can have several implications for employees covered under the Pharmacy Modern Award 2020 (or other underpinning Industrial Awards / Agreements).

It is important for employers to understand their obligations under the Pharmacy Industry Award 2020 and to consult with affected employees and their representatives when making significant changes. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Unfair dismissals

Employees who believe that they were unfairly dismissed as a result of restructuring or redundancies may file unfair dismissal claims with the Fair Work Commission. As such, ensure that any redundancies comply with the relevant Industrial Agreement and the Fair Work Act 2009. A redundancy must be genuine which means the employee’s job does not need to be done by anyone else.

  • Redundancy entitlements

Be aware of the redundancy entitlements outlined in the Pharmacy Modern Award 2020 or other underpinning agreement such as a contract of employment. Affected employees are entitled to redundancy pay based on their years of service. There are some cases where redundancy entitlement does not apply such as under probationary period, length of service under 12 months or where the Small Business Code applies.

  • Consultation requirements

Under the Pharmacy Industry Award 2020, employers are required to consult with affected employees and their representatives before implementing significant workplace changes, such as restructuring, redundances or changes to opening hours, rosters and hours of work. Consultation should involve discussing the proposed changes, the reasons behind them, any potential impacts on employees, any potential redeployment opportunities.

  • Changes to hours of work

Where an employer wishes to change an employee’s hours of work or change their role from full-time to part time, it is important to understand that this process can be quite nuanced. On some occasions a redundancy may be triggered as part of this process and seeking professional advice is always recommended.

  • Notice periods

Employees affected by redundancies are generally entitled to receive notice as per the award provisions. The notice period may vary depending on the length of an employee’s service, their age or any special provisions in their contract of employment.

  • Outplacement support

Consider offering outplacement support to affected employees, such as career counselling or assistance with job searches. It is also important to note ‘Job Search Entitlements’ for impacted employees under the Pharmacy Industry Modern Award 2020.

  • Transition plans

Develop transition plans for the remaining team members to ensure they can manage the workload effectively after redundancies. In the current workplace health and safety landscape it is imperative that all employees’ workload is achievable and that they are able to take the necessary breaks. Not considering these factors can bring unnecessary psychosocial risk your organisation.

  • Transfer of business

If the restructuring involves the transfer of a pharmacy business, employees may be entitled to have their employment transferred to the new employer with their existing entitlements and terms and conditions intact. Employers should be aware of their obligations regarding the transfer of business, including employee rights.

  • Part-time and casual employees

Part-time and casual employees under the award may have specific entitlements and notice periods depending on their employment status and terms of engagement. Employers should adhere to these provisions when making changes affecting these employees.

  • Penalty rates and overtime

Changes to opening hours may impact employees’ entitlements to penalty rates and overtime under the Pharmacy Award. Employers should review and adjust employees’ rosters and pay rates accordingly after meeting the requirements under the Award to effectively consult with employees.

  • Consultation with relevant authorities

In some cases, especially if substantial redundancies are involved, employers may need to consult with the relevant union or relevant government authorities, such as the Fair Work Commission, as required by the Fair Work Act 2009.

  • Record keeping

Employers should maintain accurate records of consultations, notices provided, and any agreements reached with affected employees or their representatives during the restructuring process.

  • Legal and professional advice

Given the complexity of employment law in Australia, it is advisable for employers to seek legal or engage professional HR services when making significant workplace changes, to ensure compliance with the Pharmacy Award and applicable legislation.

Workforce planning can result in considerable change. In our next blog, we will discuss other opportunities to consider in workforce planning and the role of leadership.

About the Author

Paulette Kolarz is the Managing Director of BespokeHR and is recognised as one of Australia’s leading authorities in Human Resource Management and Leadership Development. Paulette helps organisations attract, retain and grow their leaders and build high achieving, engaged teams.

With more than 20 years working in HR, she has significant experience in providing end to end people solutions in the areas of HR Consulting, Recruitment and Training and Development.


We have looked at a range of issues around 60 day dispensing. Check out our previous blogs: