“We usually have one toilet reserved for us in a big shopping complex and it takes a while to get there. Since we can’t take too many breaks and can’t be away for too long, we usually don’t drink water or simply avoid going to the toilet,’’ says Preethi, a 31-year-old saleswoman from Kozhikode. She also reveals how standing for long hours would leave many of them with swollen legs and knee pain. There were other problems too.
Early this month, the State Cabinet decided to amend the Kerala Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1960 for preventing sexual harassment against women employees and providing for their sitting facilities in the shops. This was a huge relief for saleswoman and men who work in textile and jewelry shops across the state.
Apart from that, the stipulation requiring all shops to be shut down one day a week has been also removed. Instead, a new condition has been added that the employees should be given a day’s off each week has been introduced.
The decision that all shops should have a sitting arrangement for its employees and that they should not be forced to stand full-time while they are on their duty will bring a huge change for people working in this industry and will be a great help for people who travel massive distances to be at their workplace on time.
In case you are not aware of the situation of 94% of women workers in India who work in the unorganized sector, here is a quick video from the Quint:
It is not an uncommon scene in textile shops where a salesperson has to stand for hours- welcome customers, help them to choose their favorite piece, guide them to numerous sections and also at times make up for someone else’s absence. This is cruel to a great extent as after all the hard work, they do not have a chair to rest.
In the worst cases, be it a man or woman, they hardly get time to go to toilets when their schedule is hectic.
A salesgirl in a Kochi textile showroom said to Indian Express, “The government’s move is definitely a breather for all employees working in the field. We have been fighting for so long for our rights. During special offers and seasons, the situation gets worse, customers will be rushing in and at times we will not even have our lunch.”
Several small-scale textile shops lack even toilet facility. “Several commercial shops, including textiles, do not have toilet facilities. The employees will either have to depend on the toilets in the other shops nearby or the public toilets in the area and that too if there are any,” said Sruthi Pillai, a research student.
Even though giving access to toilet facility in a shop is mandatory, still, in many shops in Kerala, such facilities do not exist.
A staffer said, male employees also have to go through similar circumstances and the scene is no different for them. “Each day is a struggle. From the moment we arrive at 10 am, it is non-stop work till 10 pm. The normal working hours maybe 8 hours for every other organization, but for us, it is 10 and 12. Employers won’t hire more people to save money.” Further, he adds, even though they have chairs to sit, but the work pressure doesn’t allow them to have that privilege and it is same for women.
A city resident, Sheril said to Indian Express that while the customers look for their comfort and satisfaction in a shop, in which the salesperson play a significant role, she has not seen any employee sitting in a shop during the working hours.