The south Indian state of Tamil Nadu became the second Indian state to enshrine the “right to sit” for retail staff in law.
The order requires store owners to provide seating and let employees take the weight off their feet whenever possible during the working day.
India’s fast-growing retail sector is a pillar of the economy, accounting for 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 8 percent of jobs, according to Invest India, the country’s investment promotion arm.
In southern states, including Tamil Nadu, big family-run chains dominate the jewellery and clothing sectors, and they hire women from lower-middle-class homes to serve their mainly female clientele.
The new legal amendment to protect workers’ health is welcome but overdue, according to M Dhanalakshmi, Tamil Nadu state convener of the Working Women’s Coordination Committee, a wing of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
“This has been a long-pending demand,” she said.
“From the time they board the bus to get to work until they return home after a 12 or 14-hour shift, they barely sit.
“There are health issues like varicose veins that they grapple with and [they] work under constant stress. This rule is long overdue.”
The neighbouring state of Kerala brought in a similar law in 2018 following protests by sales staff in textile shops.