Pharmacists increasingly offered starting bonuses to counter workforce shortage

After pharmacists were added to the Home Office's shortage occupation list, the number of joining bonuses worth thousands of pounds for pharmacy jobs were found to have increased during summer 2021.

There has been a “notable” increase in the number of pharmacy sector jobs offering signing on bonuses, data from employment website ‘Indeed’ show.

Figures published on 21 September 2021 by Indeed Hiring Lab — a team of economists that produces research on global labour market topics using Indeed’s proprietary data — show that the percentage of advertisements for pharmacy roles that mentioned a signing bonus rose from 0.1% to 1.9% between May 2021 and August 2021.

This was the second largest rise across all sectors, topped only by chemical engineering.

A spokesperson from Indeed, which was offering around 8,000 UK pharmacy job adverts at the time of publication, said the growth in these incentives on job advertisements across multiple sectors “has been notable [during summer 2021], coming as employers across a number of sectors report worsening labour shortages”.

A recent survey of employers found that nearly one in ten (9%) full-time equivalent (FTE) community pharmacist positions were vacant as of July 2020.

An example of such an advertisement on the Indeed website is a vacancy for a relief pharmacist manager at Well, the description for which details a ‘Welcome to Well bonus’ set at 10% of the role’s annual salary, which could equate to as much as £5,000.

Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) and the PDA Union, said: “[The] purchasing power of pharmacist pay rates has reduced in recent years due to sub-inflation increases, and this is a contributing factor to some pharmacists no longer choosing to work full time, if at all, in community pharmacy in particular.”

However, Day went on to say that “one-off bonuses, temporary increases, location allowances, honorariums and similar are not a sustainable solution to the core issue”.

In March 2021, pharmacists were added to the Home Office’s shortage occupation list, after the department’s Migration Advisory Committee said there was evidence of “a national shortage in this occupation due to a decline in the number of pharmacy graduates and increasing demand for their services”.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics in December 2020 showed that the mean full-time salary for UK pharmacists during the 2019/2020 financial year was £43,260, an 0.8% increase on 2018/2019. However, there was considerable variation across the UK, with the East Midlands region offering the highest salaries and the North East offering the lowest.  

Well Pharmacy did not respond in time for publication.

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Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2021, Vol 307, No 7953;307(7953)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.106671

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