The Co-operative Group is asking its staff to fill in availability forms stating what hours they can work every week, as the society continues to look for ways to make its food stores more efficient.

Staff have been asked to fill out the forms following a pilot last year. If they cannot work at certain times, they need to explain why on the form.

The Co-op said it was consulting with staff to ensure it had the flexible workforce it needed, but the forms have worried staff, some of whom have taken to The Co-op Group’s staff forum on Facebook to express their concern. The subject has generated 75 posts so far.

One staff member posted: “They are expecting us to be on call all the time. Basically, we are not meant to have a social life outside of work.” Another added: “The Co-op is going to lose some of its finest, hard-working, loyal, long-serving members of staff. To be available 100% is going to be impossible for a lot of brilliant staff.”

Staff have also claimed they could be made redundant if they refuse to work when asked three times. Acceptable reasons for being unavailable include only such things as childcare, a second job or study, they say.

The Co-op did not respond directly to these claims, but a spokesman said: “Like most retailers, we require a flexible workforce to ensure we have the right number of people working at the right times. Where there is a business requirement to change working patterns, we are doing all we can to agree a mutually acceptable way of making any changes to their availability. If this is an issue we will work with each individual to come to a solution.”

Last month, The Grocer revealed the society was piloting a new system called S3 Store Standards, which could lead to redundancies. S3 is currently being rolled out across its food stores.