After learning about the health issues Watsons employees face because of not being allowed to sit down during their shifts, the rights group Workers Make Possible met with members of Watsons’ management on Dec 12 to ask for changes that would allow a better and more healthful environment for its staff.

The issue has resonated with many, and the Instagram account of Workers Make Possible is full of comments from individuals thanking the group for speaking out on the issue, as well as workers from Watsons and other establishments who shared their own stories about not being allowed to sit down during shifts that lasted eight or even 10 hours.

“In 2007, i was a promoter at watsons ngee ann city. Wasnt allowed to sit at all. I hid in the storeroom to sit, the manager find me n ask me to go back to my station. Told my product boss i am never going to promote in any watsons anymore,” one netizen commented on the group’s Dec 5 IG post.

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Another commenter wrote, “My mum works there and she isn’t allowed to sit even when it isn’t busy. She has to stand the whole day which leads to feet ache everyday…. She’s already in her 50s and her fellow colleagues are also in the 50-60 age range….”

One netizen who had worked in retail after graduating from secondary school wrote that no staff was allowed to sit during 10-hour shifts even when there were no customers.

“My feet were hurting so bad everytime and I got blisters too. Rest should NOT be privilege, it is a necessity.”

Workers Make Possible had two asks for Watsons: to allow workers to sit down during shifts and to provide either standing stools or chairs at cashier stations.

Having spoken to a number of employees, the group also heard that the workers are scolded when they ask for breaks and have been disallowed to sit down.

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“We hope that Watsons will set an example for other stores and change this workplace policy out of concern for their workers’ health and wellbeing,” the group said.

Ms Kokila Annamalai from Workers Make Possible spoke to TISG after the meeting with Watsons, saying that the beauty and health retailer clarified that there is no specific policy against workers sitting down and that when they feel tired or need a break, they are allowed to tell their manager and have a seat in the break room.

Watsons has also said it will communicate clearly that employees should be allowed to have sitting breaks as well as should be able to ask for a chair while at work if they have health issues or pain. The company will also make it clear to retail workers on the ground that they can ask for chairs when they need them.

Watsons has also said it will review whether more breaks per shift, as well as more chairs in break rooms, can be provided.

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Ms Annamalai told TISG she hopes that Watsons will make further concessions for the benefit of its staff’s health and that Workers Make Possible has asked to hear from the company in the coming days. /TISG

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