The British Retail Consortium has hit back at a survey that claims retailers ignorant of women’s rights during pregnancy are putting their workers’ health and unborn babies at risk.
Research by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers suggested employers failed to fully understand or follow statutory procedures.
John Hannett, Usdaw general secretary, acknowledged some did have positive experience, but said these were outweighed by the bad: “Many women told us they felt undervalued, ignored, humiliated, even made to feel guilty about being pregnant.”
Of more than 1,200 pregnant retail staff, 62% reported a negative change in attitude from their employer towards them during pregnancy.
Two thirds did not get a safety risk assessment, as required by law, and were commonly put on ‘light duties’ at the checkout - in spite of the fact that the average checkout operator has to lift more than a tonne of produce during a four-hour shift.
But BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said the study did not paint an accurate picture of the industry, which was the second largest employer of women.
“Retailers will always try to keep up good practice and keep up to speed with any new legislation affecting pregnant employees, but like any other sector, we are not perfect and mistakes happen.
“The survey fails to recognise the diversity of the retail sector, giving no indication of the size of the retailers in question - employment legislation will always prove more of a challenge for smaller retailers. The retail industry will always be especially attractive to women because of its flexibility.”