Should retail/food service employees be allowed to sit on the clock?

I’ve seen a lot of debate on this subject on social media and I’m curious what you guys think. In the US, in most retail/grocery and fast food locations, unless you have some kind of doctor’s recommendation, you’re not allowed to sit while you’re on the clock. Whether you’re slicing tomatoes in the back or running a register, you’re on your feet. I’ve heard that this is different in other countries. What is it like where you live? And how do you think it should be? Should employees be able to sit? Maybe just be required to stand when a customer approaches?

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I’m in the UK, and dont work in retail, but I obviously interact with those who do, and the answer to what it’s like (as opposed to what I think should happen) is… it depends.
Cashiers at the bigger supermarkets are usually on chairs for the majority of their shift on the tills - the queues rarely drop low enough for them to be doing other things. Cashiers at smaller stores usually do not - the till space is too small, and when the store is empty they are on the shop floor, facing up or stocking shelves (sometimes sitting on those elephant’s foot stools if they are doing the lower shelves). Food workers are usually moving between stations - I’ve never seen them have time to sit.

As to what I think should happen, if there is no chance a stool will become a trip hazard or an obstacle to fire evacuation, I do not have a problem with workers who do not need to move all day, having a sit down while they work. If they do need to move all the time - I dont see how they can sit and still do their jobs? Parking your bottom on a stool for 2 seconds at Station A before moving to Station B is not really a “sit down”, and if that’s as long as you’re able to use it for, it’s likely to be one of those pesky trip/fire hazards.

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I have never understood making people stand for multiple hours at a time. Not for jobs like cashier that don’t require moving around anyway.

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I don’t have a ton of experience in retail, but I worked at a fast food place where I had a surprising amount of downtime. Naturally, we were expected to clean and restock our stations and such when things were slow and we had no customers, but once that was done, there was just a lot of standing around. There wasn’t a lot of room to keep something like a chair or a stool, but if someone was exhausted and they were caught sitting on the floor in a back corner somewhere or even just crouching to give some relief to their knees or backs… they got reamed by the managers.

We were just told to go find something to clean. It got to the point where you’d just carry one of our infamous blue rags around and idly wipe at perfectly clean surfaces to avoid getting yelled at. :sweat_smile:

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Yes, absolutely.

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No, because they’d break the clock if they sat on it.

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Oh god, as someone with medical issues that makes standing for long periods very painful (yet not to the point where I can get a dr’s note. At least I don’t think?), I think they absolutely should be allowed to sit.

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I worked at a shoe store where we had to wear dress shoes (not even kidding!) and we were overstaffed while I was there–one register, three aisles and something like six people besides the manager. I was going to get a note from my chiropractor so I could wear tennis shoes, but I quit first. :dizzy_face:


As to the topic, absolutely. If you’re chained to a register, you should be able to sit. If you’re expected to move around between customers, maybe not so much.

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It was very strange culture shock to go from most retail environments I’ve seen where customer is king, time to lean time to clean etc to places like China and Vietnam where even if you walk in as a customer the staff often ignores you, sometimes sitting on a stool looking at their phones. It was very strange and felt unwelcoming at first, like I’m bothering them by shopping there. But also I’ve felt overwhelmed by places that are too aggressive and clearly the workers can never get a break. If you set clear expectations for the customers, I don’t see why employees can’t sit if they’their job allows it.

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I grew up in Sweden, lives for years in Germany and have been hopping between Italy, Spain and Portugal for the last couple of years.

It’s common that there’s a chair or swivel stool for the cashiers, usually with enough space for it to be tucked away for when the cashier chooses to stand.

In smaller shops and in boutiques they’re rare.

I see no reason why you shouldn’t offer a seat for the cashiers!!

Also, I see nothing wrong if the person working in one of the tiny shops is having a coffee in the adjacent café or something like that, they usually come over as soon as they see you heading to the shop (I’ve experienced this often in smaller shops in southern Europe)

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No, because they’d break the clock if they sat on it.

The companies should stop cheaping out and buy sturdier clocks. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Yeah, when there’s no customers, the shopkeeper will often leave the shop, perhaps to chat with an adjacent shopkeeper or some such.   They usually keep an eye on their shop and return when they see a customer approaching.

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In America, you’re likely to get harassed by some entitled customer who’s enraged that you weren’t sitting there with bated breath, staring at the doorway, eagerly anticipating their arrival.

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Even worse are the bosses who say “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”

I am always so tempted to say “If you have time to rhyme, you have time to STFU.”

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I work retail (have done for 20 plus years) and have Osteoarthritis of the spine and hips. I am expected to stay on my feet for up to 9 hours, bar lunch break. To be honest I think this is why I have OA. It has come to the point where I can only work 3 days a week, sometimes on strong meds for pain. Yet a chair just isn’t practical, I am told.

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Well, the clock would at least be right twice in a 24-hour day.

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100%. If your job can be done sitting down, you should be allowed to sit while doing it. If a reasonable accommodation for a disability is something that doesn’t impact productivity and would benefit everyone, it should be available to everyone.

I was 8 months pregnant working hotel front desk on the overnight shift and my boss went “well I guess we can get you a stool…” It was an 8 hour shift. I did nothing but night audit work on the computer and check guests in at the same computer. I didn’t need to move around. There was no good reason for me not to have a place to sit. (Technically I was also supposed to deliver room receipts. I did it exactly one time; it took me 3 hours to walk to every occupied room and bend to floor level to push the paper under the door. After that just kept the receipts at the desk to give to guests if they requested on the way out. Nobody ever complained.)

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Wow, this is all so illegal in Germany!

A pregnant (or breastfeeding) woman:

-must be able to rest, and the employer has to ensure this is impossible

  • is not allowed to work where standing for a long time is required (after the 5. month)

  • is not allowed to work between 20:00-6:00

  • is not allowed to perform tasks where you need to bend over repeatedly

There are so many more rules, but these directly apply to you situation!

If this is not made possible, the employer will be in big trouble (up to being faced with criminal charges)

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I actually had a sick note saying I had to have a chair/stool and head office still wouldn’t allow it because of trip hazards. This was by the window, not in the way with a huge staff area over a metre wide nearer a metre and a half. I should have fought it but I was in a bad place and just asked to be allowed to sit out the back when things were bad.

Yes, they broke the law but they cited legal reasons so it would have been an uphill struggle to get them to comply. And yes, I’d do it very differently now.

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I mean, I took the job knowing it was overnight, so that part didn’t bother me. Just that they gave me crap about a chair, when I was visibly heavily pregnant when I was hired. Like we all knew this was happening, why are you acting surprised now?
During the same time frame I was turned down for a temp position because I couldn’t take any time off during the first 60 days - “well I’m going to need a couple weeks at the end of August” meaningful glace at my midsection, again very obviously pregnant “Well, you can’t have anything scheduled so I guess we’ll find a different position for you”

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