Backaches and blisters: The result of the retail industry’s ‘no sitting’ policy


Nonetheless, the “no sitting” rule continues to exist in some stores.

A retail employee in her 40s at health and beauty chain Guardian said “it’s the same here” when this reporter showed her the news about Watsons getting flak. 

Anna (not her real name), who requested anonymity, added that the rule also existed at her previous retail job in a French clothing store, where she worked for five years. She has been at Guardian for a year. 

Each shift starts at about 12.30pm and lasts until 10pm, with an hour’s break. “That is the only time you can sit”, she said. 

“We cannot sit even when the store is empty. We still have to do a lot of things,” she added, gesturing to a relatively quiet store on Monday afternoon and a trolley she had been wheeling around before CNA approached her.

But as Anna holds a nursing degree, she is aware of the health implications of standing for long hours, and looks out for her colleagues if they need a break. 

“They tell me they have body aches, so I tell them they can sit inside and I will work first, then when it’s busy or there’s a long queue, I will go in and call them. I am concerned for them, I know the feeling,” she said. 

“And if they’re hungry or want to pee, they should just go. After all, if you get sick, a company can easily hire other staff and replace you.” 

Still, she has taken the policy in stride, as it is “part and parcel of the job”. 

“For me as a staff here, retail is a job which is busy and where you need to stand for long hours. I accept it as it is, wholeheartedly,” she said. 

In response to CNA’s queries, a spokesperson from DFI Retail Group, which owns brands like Guardian, 7-11 and Cold Storage, said the group “is committed to the health and safety of all our staff members at work”.

“All team members have scheduled break times for rest, with seating available in the rest area, that can be freely used by staff whenever they need to take a break,” the spokesperson said.

“We also regularly seek feedback from staff as their well-being and welfare is of utmost importance to us.”


Several other brands did not employ such “no sitting” practices. 

Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice “does not have a policy that requires staff to stand during work duties”, a company spokesperson told CNA.

“Stools have also been provided for our cashiers to utilise at work.”

FairPrice conducts “regular staff dialogues” and “constantly reviews our operating procedures for improvement to ensure a conducive workplace for our staff”, it added.

Current retail workers who spoke to CNA also said no such policy exists in their store.

At around 2pm on Monday, CNA visited 313@somerset’s Spectacle Hut when there were no customers. 

Ms Zita, the store-in-charge, noted that their workers pull full-day shifts, with two breaks throughout the day, each an hour long. 

“Of course, we have to stand if there are customers in the store. (But generally), as long as there is one person on the floor, it doesn’t matter if (the other worker) sits or stands,” said the 40-year-old. 

“It’s tiring to stand the whole day, but if there are customers, you won’t feel it as much. You must be on the move.”

Ms Shanamae Silvano, boutique manager for skincare brand Elixir at Ngee Ann City, said employees at her store work around eight-and-a-half-hour shifts with an hour’s break.

The company has an “employee-friendly” policy, and staff can sit down as long as they do something at the counter, such as “preparing samples or stock-taking”, the 38-year-old said. 

“As long as you don’t watch movie or play your handphone.”