Pharmacy student claims discrimination against company
By Neil Trainis
A young pharmacy worker has claimed a student accommodation company is discriminating against her after it allegedly told her to pay it more than £1,000 in rent even though she had moved out of the property.
Lein Tekko (pictured), who is a second year pharmacy student and part-time dispenser, said Abodus Student Living waived rent payments for students who left their lodgings by the time the UK had gone into lockdown on March 23 through an early tenancy release but sent her a rent bill for £1,390 after she missed that deadline.
Ms Tekko said she did not move out until April 11 because the branch of Boots in Liverpool where she worked needed her services as some of its staff were self-isolating because of coronavirus.
She said she put off a move to a Boots pharmacy in Belfast so she could help the branch in Liverpool and insisted Abodus` claim for £1,390 in rent covers the period April 23 to July 4.
She applied for the early tenancy release on April 12, the day after she moved out and ahead of the April 14 deadline, but said her application was rejected by Abodus.
Ms Tekko said the company discriminated against her as a pharmacy student after it apparently released a student nurse living in its accommodation in Newcastle from her contract after she was unable to leave because of a nursing placement. She, like Ms Tekko, had presented evidence to Abodus.
“I thought herself and I were in very similar situations and so I contacted (Abodus) again with evidence and got a reply saying that they singled out nurses as a group and would take them into account as a result of their roles,” Ms Tekko told Independent Community Pharmacist.
“I provided them with a letter from Boots stating I was a health and social care key worker and an email from my previous manager confirming that I was working in Boots during that period of time providing essential pharmacy services during the Covid-19 period.
“My colleagues at the pharmacy and I found that to be quite discriminatory towards other healthcare professionals, especially considering pharmacists and pharmacy staff are recognised to be frontline key workers by the Department of Health and Social Care.”
Ms Tekko added: “I thought it was a shame to see that I was being penalised for doing the right thing by deferring my transfer to another store to stay and support the pharmacy and the community while most of the pharmacy team were self isolating at the time.”
Ms Tekko, who now works in Belfast, said Abodus failed to acknowledge her circumstances and ignored her after she repeatedly tried to contact them to discuss the matter.
She contacted Gavin Robinson, the MP for Belfast East, to intervene and said Abodus ignored his emails. Ms Tekko said she has not yet paid Abodus the money. Abodus said it could not comment on individual cases.
However, the company told ICP: “We set out clear terms and conditions for early release in accordance with the government lockdown introduced on 23rd March and we have now released over 70 per cent of our students overall whilst maintaining operations and services for our community who remain living with us across our portfolio.
“For the small minority of students, who did not meet the parameters for early release, we have provided the opportunity to arrange bespoke payment plans, over protracted periods, to ensure payments are manageable and students are currently liaising with site teams across the country in this regard.”