Pharmacy assistants and dispensing assistants were the third-lowest paid profession this year, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS data on employee earnings in the UK showed full-time pharmacy assistants make £17,593 a year on average – a drop of 0.3% compared to 2019.

The two professions who currently have lower annual incomes are playworkers and leisure and theme park attendants, who earn £17,119 and £16,125, respectively.

The data showed that pharmacy technicians have also seen an income drop since 2019 – by 0.8% - with an average annual take home for 2020 of £23,618.

Meanwhile, pharmacists’ annual earnings have increased by 0.8% since last year, to an average of £43,260, the figures show.

The data is based on findings from the ONS annual survey for hours and earnings (ASHE) and relates to the pay period that includes 22 April 2020, at which time approximately 8.8 million employees were furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, ONS said.

The estimates include furloughed employees and are based on actual payments made to the employee from company pay and the hours on which this pay was calculated, it added.

Commenting on the findings, Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) and the PDA Union, said that ‘every role in the pharmacy team should include a fair level of reward that attracts and retains the great people patients, and employers, need in pharmacies’.

He added: ‘Experience shows that if employees want to influence employers to pay them better, they can achieve that through joining together in an independent union and collective bargaining. So, we'd encourage pharmacy assistants in community pharmacy to contact Usdaw, the leading shop workers' union.’

This data comes as national restrictions have just come into force in England, following a steep rise in Covid-19 cases across the country.

Similar to the last national lockdown in March, all non-essential businesses have been forced to close, leaving pharmacies as one of the only remaining shops open.

In response to the national lockdown, the pandemic delivery service has restarted and will continue until 3 December.