The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) will create an inclusive workplace pledge for pharmacy, as part of a wider five-year strategy to improve inclusion and diversity (I&D) across the pharmacy sector.
The pledge will include guidance on how to speak up on I&D issues; I&D and workplace harassment policies; workplace adjustment policies — including physical access and adaptation — and practical tips for both employers and employees.
Paul Bennett, chief executive of the RPS, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the pledge was about “making a clear statement by which an organisation will stand, and being really clear about what the aim is in terms of achieving a state of inclusivity, respecting diversity and embracing that within the organisation”.
“We’re asking all [pharmacy] organisations to think in a similar way to be really clear about what they stand for and to work with their own employees to make sure that they all strive for a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
The strategy, details of which were published by the Society on 22 June 2020, comes out of the Society’s pharmacy I&D programme, chaired by Asif Sadiq MBE, which launched in August 2019.
As part of that programme, a GB-wide workshop was held on 4 November 2019, and a survey ran from 8 August 2019 to 11 September 2019, which both fed into the strategy.
Work towards the strategy goals will be built around three priorities: creating a “culture of belonging”; championing inclusive and authentic leadership; and challenging barriers to I&D.
Within this will be the creation of a new Early Careers Advisory Group which will, the strategy document says, “integrate I&D into their work and raise the visibility of individuals with protected characteristics in the early stages of their pharmacy career”. As part of its aims, this group will work with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA), the UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA) and the Pharmacy Schools Council (PhSC) to look at the disparity in registration assessment pass rates in black students, and “develop concrete plans to address them”.
The group will also “address systemic workplace inequalities and discrimination among our BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] community and lobby against these at a national policy level”.
Elsy Gomez Campos, president of the UKBPA, said the association’s members “will be happy to collaborate with the RPS in future work or projects related to equality and inclusion”.
Other aims within the strategy include developing campaigns to raise awareness of barriers experienced by people with disabilities — hidden and visible, including mental health — and issues around pregnancy and maternity: both factors highlighted by respondents to the RPS survey. “Whether it be by accident rather than design, if discrimination occurs the organisation also loses out, as well as the individual”, said Bennett.
“So I think it’s important that that there is a real focus on this area, and I’m pleased that disability, age, and pregnancy and maternity status have come out strongly as areas for focus in our survey work: it’s clearly demonstrated these are important aspects as far as our members are concerned.”
Francesa Okosi, director of people at the GPhC, said: “This is a good start and we look forward to working in partnership with [the RPS] where appropriate to take forward our joint commitment to improving equality, diversity and inclusion in the pharmacy profession and for the wider public who access pharmacy services.”
Bennett told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “When you come across inequality and hear about difficult circumstances that I know colleagues can experience, and there’s an opportunity to do something about that, I think it’s beholden upon anybody in a position of influence to do their utmost to try and address discrimination and inequality wherever it presents itself.
“The whole issue has come under considerable focus recently with world events, which demonstrates that nobody can afford to be complacent. And complacency is the worst thing that could happen: you must not walk past something that’s wrong when you see it, and you must act when you do and you can.”