Watsons Denies ‘No Sitting’ Policy After Employee Allegations
Frontline employees are arguably one of the most important, as their actions reflect on the company’s culture and values. So when such workers complain of unsatisfactory working conditions, they would certainly raise eyebrows.
Recently, several Watsons employees allegedly complained about the company’s “no sitting” policy, which caused some of them to suffer leg pain from standing during their long shifts.
In response, the company denied that no such policy exists, and will review the necessary implementations.
NGO sparks debate about Watsons ‘no sitting’ policy
In a Facebook post on 11 Oct, non-governmental organisation (NGO) Workers Make Possible questioned whether retail workers are allowed to sit during shifts.
They claimed that a Watsons employee had previously complained about knee issues which she experienced since she started working as a cashier.
According to them, employees are not allowed to “sit in areas where customers can see them”. This is apparently an “informal standard practice”.
Using Watsons as an example, they alleged that cashiers do not have chairs.
On the other hand, pharmacists are purportedly allowed to sit, and chairs are available for cashiers at Guardian.
They also emphasised the detrimental health effects of prolonged standing, such as lower back and leg pain. This would be “especially brutal” for the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions, they added.
In another post on 1 Dec, Workers Make Possible shared a screenshot of their conversation with an alleged Watsons employee.
In the chat, the employee told them that she was experiencing terrible pain in her feet due to her long shift.
Again, they highlighted the negative health issues stemming from prolonged standing.
Watsons says ‘no sitting’ policy does not exist
In response to queries, Watsons stated that employees can take breaks when needed at rest areas, reports The Straits Times (ST).
“Watsons always sees employee welfare as a priority. We would like to clarify that we do not have a ‘no sitting’ policy,” they were quoted as saying.
The company also stated that they remain open to suggestions from their workers, and will review the appropriate implementations.
On Monday (12 Dec), Workers Make Possible and a former employee met Watsons’ management for discussions. They reportedly asked for more frequent breaks for workers.
During the meeting, a former cashier allegedly said that a shift at Watsons can be painful and exhausting. She expressed concern for older employees who may have a worse experience.
Following company policy, cashiers do not have chairs. Although most outlets have chairs in the backroom, she claimed that cashiers cannot carry them to their stations.
She even alleged that her supervisor had once told her off for sitting down and resting at the cash register when she was tired.
Another employee claimed that she was only allowed to sit during her one-hour lunch break.
Aside from that, she would have to stand all the way during her nine-hour shifts. Her supervisors also allegedly told her that it would look bad on them if cashiers sat at the counter.
While they allowed her to take a chair to her station when she hurt her knee, this was supposedly only temporary.
Employees contact Workers Make Possible
These circumstances prompted the employees to contact Workers Make Possible, who started a social media campaign. In September, the organisation asked Watsons for a statement.
In November, after observing that many cashiers did not have chairs, they posted about the issue on Instagram. Only then did Watsons contact the organisation to set up a meeting.
A community worker from the group asserted that this issue possibly affects thousands of workers from both retail and F&B companies.
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