Let's do lunch: the rules on breaks for pharmacists

January 11, 2018

ACP has heard concern from some registrants recently about employee/employer relationships in pharmacy. One of the primary concerns is about pharmacists being able to take proper breaks during their shifts in cases where no overlapping schedules exist.

We are pleased to comment on some of those concerns.

#1: Can a pharmacy operate in the absence of a pharmacist?

Section 17 of the Pharmacy and Drug Regulation accommodates temporary absences from the pharmacy by a clinical pharmacist and measures that must be taken during such absences.

#2: What conditions exist for lunch breaks?

If the pharmacist is away for a short period with a mobile phone, and is accessible by phone or in person such that they can return to the pharmacy immediately, then the preliminary requirements for a temporary absence from the pharmacy are met.

In circumstances where those requirements cannot be met (i.e.: the pharmacist is not reachable by phone or unable to return to the pharmacy immediately), and the pharmacy is open to the public for fewer hours than the premises it is located in, then Section 18 of the Pharmacy and Drug Regulation comes into effect, and the pharmacy must meet the requirements of a lock and leave pharmacy.

ACP recognizes the importance of lunch and other breaks for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Fatigue can contribute to error and/or low performance. As outlined in Principle 11 of ACP’s Code of Ethics, registrants should take measures to ensure their personal well-being and practice only when fit and competent to do so. By doing so, pharmacy professionals are best positioned to address the well-being of the individuals they serve.

#3: Are pharmacists exempt from Alberta’s Employment Standards Code?

It is ACP’s understanding that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are not exempt from Alberta’s Employment Standards Code. However, this interpretation is less clear for those in management positions. “Managers” are exempt from the Employment Standards Code, and therefore, interpretation of this section as it applies to pharmacy licensees is less clear, and may depend on the breadth of their management responsibilities within their employment relationship, as compared to their professional responsibilities in acting as the licensee under the Pharmacy and Drug Act. Because the scope of management responsibilities differs between practice settings/employment relationships, ACP recommends that personal advice be pursued from Alberta Labour or your own legal counsel. ACP cannot provide a generalized interpretation of the code that effectively applies to all practice/employment relationships.

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