Boots: The Importance of Fair Work - Business in the Community

Boots: The Importance of Fair Work

How Fair Work practices ensure that Boots employees are fairly rewarded, heard and represented.

Boots is the UK’s largest health and beauty retailer and community pharmacy chain. The company has served customers in Wales from the heart of local communities ever since opening its first store in Swansea in 1896. Today, over 125 years later, Boots operates 100 stores in Wales and employs 1,600 staff.

Regional Stores Director, Andy Francis, has been with Boots for over 30 years and in that time has seen the organisation adapt and grow by implementing Fair Work practices for the benefit of employees in Wales.

Boots logo on white background

The Importance of Fair Work

Fair Work practices ensure that employees are fairly rewarded, heard and represented, secure and able to progress in a healthy, inclusive working environment where rights are respected. As a fair employer, Boots continues to improve upon these areas within the business. Andy explains: “Ensuring our employees are treated fairly is high on our priority list, we invest in their wellbeing, personal and professional growth and benefits in order to create an inclusive and positive working environment.”

How Boots Implements Fair Work Practices

At Boots, team members benefit from a variety of flexible and part-time working opportunities to suit their lifestyle and commitments, which ensures a healthy work-life balance. All members of staff, no matter their contract type or working hours, have access to well-established learning and development pathways so they can continually grow and advance their career. Andy elaborates: “We have several examples in Wales of colleagues who started on the shop floor working part-time progressing up through the business to become a Boots store manager or area manager. Everyone has the opportunity to progress their career at Boots, no matter how many hours a week they work.”

Learning and development is an important Fair Work pillar at Boots, especially for young people. Boots provides a wide range of opportunities for young people to start their careers and develop their work experience and employability skills. The company has a long-standing partnership with The Prince’s Trust across the UK to provide unemployed young people, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, with work experience placements. Andy confirms that “a significant proportion of these young people have gone on to secure permanent roles working for Boots. And those that don’t have moved on and managed to find alternative work elsewhere thanks to the experience on their CV.”

As well as providing opportunities for career progression, Boots is committed to workforce equality, diversity, and inclusion. Boots is recognised as an age-inclusive employer by age diversity organisation 55/Redefined. Over a quarter of the company’s workforce is aged over 50 and many of these team members have been with Boots for decades, which is a testament to the company’s positive workplace culture.

Boots places great importance on driving a culture of diversity and inclusion. They have a variety of Business Resource Groups (BRGs), including those focused on Women, Disability, Pride (LGBTQ+), Working Parents etc., which staff can join. The BRGs are a key element of how Boots ensures that the employee voice is heard and reflected in business decision-making.

As a result of the BRGs and their influence on workplace policies and organisational practices, Boots has received accreditation as a Menopause Friendly employer in recognition of its commitment to supporting women’s health and improving the experience of the menopause for colleagues and customers alike. In addition, Boots is also accredited as a Disability Confident employer and has worked to ensure that team members with disabilities are supported, including via workplace adjustment processes and support passports.

The rights of every employee are respected and championed at Boots, with a policy on dignity at work, which provides for an environment free from prejudice, bullying, harassment, and victimisation. Employees from every department also have the opportunity to regularly share feedback through employee engagement surveys, so if a new policy needs to be updated to promote inclusivity or health and wellbeing, Boots can take steps to address this.

Recognising employees for their differences is essential to ensuring they feel heard, understood, and respected. It is just as important to reward all employees fairly to recruit and retain talent, and Boots ensures this through fair and equitable employment policies which provide opportunities for people from different backgrounds. As well as this, in 2022, Boots reported a 0% median gender pay gap, which is well below the average in the retail industry and the UK economy as a whole.

Another benefit that makes Boots a responsible employer is its support for Business in the Community’s (BITC) Ban the Box campaign. Andy explains: “We aim to ensure that our approach to recruitment and employment is as accessible, diverse, and fair as possible. Since 2013, we have championed the Ban the Box campaign. By removing the criminal convictions ‘tick box’ from our application process, we provide ex-offender candidates with an equal chance to be assessed based on their skills and ability rather than background.”

The Outcomes of Being a Fair Work Employer

By adopting the six pillars of Fair Work, Boots, as well as its employees, has experienced numerous benefits. To achieve some of these positive results, Boots has also utilised BITC’s services, specifically the ‘Boost’ scheme in Wales. Andy elaborates: “Through this scheme, our store managers were trained to support jobseekers. In 2022, 10 managers in Wales shared their skills to help improve the confidence of those on the programme, with coaching sessions completed over 3-6 months.”

Boots is committed to improving upon its Fair Work practices in the future and continuing its partnership with BITC. As an organisation, Boots have been progressing on its Fair Work journey for several years, and some smaller businesses may be intimidated to begin going down this pathway. But Andy advises: “It’s always worthwhile implementing Fair Work practices. It may seem like a lengthy process, but once you start looking into how your organisation is run, you’ll most likely find you’re already conforming to some, if not all, the pillars in one way or another. And BITC are always willing to provide a helping hand with advice on policies and other useful services.”