There is strong discontent among a number of workers in various retail services, such as bakeries, fruit shops, supermarkets and clothing and shoe stores, where employers appear to be following a particular practice of not allowing their employees to sit during the entire working day. their time. In fact, the fact that there are employers who require employees to stand continuously, even when this is not required by the nature of the work they perform and even when there is no customer inside the store, makes a sad impression.
As some employees complain, several employers, to ensure their employees' uninterrupted standing, remove chairs and stools from the shop area, so that their employees cannot rest even for a few minutes, which raises several questions as to the manner in which these actions are controlled by the authorities of the Ministry of Labour.
This issue was raised by AKEL MP, Giorgos Koukoumas, who called on the Minister of Labour, Kyriakos Kousios, to inform the House of Representatives on whether he considers the existing legislative framework satisfactory, specifically Article 27 on Security and Health at Work Law, which states that “any person at work has, during his employment, a reasonable opportunity to sit down, without his work being adversely affected, suitable seats must be provided and maintained for use that facilitate the use of these the possibilities”. It is noted that the relevant article of the Convention of the International Labor Organization provides that “adequate and suitable seats should be provided to the workers and the workers should have a reasonable opportunity to use them”.
In fact, it is worth asking whether during the inspections of the competent department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance in workplaces for safety and health issues, it is checked whether workers are forced to stand unreasonably and whether workers are given the opportunity to sit, if nature allows it of the work they perform or during the period of time permitted by the nature of the work.
In addition, a reasonable question is whether the Ministry of Labor has taken into account the recommendations included in the recent report prepared by the European Organization for Safety and Health at Work, on the consequences of prolonged standing in the workplace, with which it identified the health risks involved, including the musculoskeletal diseases of the workers. in statements he gave to REPORTER, AKEL MP and member of the Labor Committee, Giorgos Koukoumas, who described this employer practice in dozens of workplaces as inhumane. “The consequences for the health of the workers are obvious. First of all, strain and exhaustion from standing for at least eight hours. Thousands of workers come home from work every day with unbearable pain in the back, legs, knees, etc. But in the long run, prolonged standing work accumulates more serious health problems for workers, such as rheumatism and musculoskeletal diseases. These are not subjective estimates. They have been documented by the European Organization for Safety and Health at Work, which has prepared a special scientific study in 2021 on the consequences of prolonged standing in the workplace, which confirms the seriousness of the issue”.
As Mr. Koukoumas indicated, AKEL has opened up this issue, starting with the filing of a parliamentary question at the beginning of October to the Ministry of Labour, calling on it to submit data on the issue of the mandatory and prolonged standing of workers in the workplace. “First of all, we will have to evaluate and expect the position of the Minister. Labor therefore, if the legislative framework needs strengthening, so that the relevant provision of the Safety and Health at Work Law is consistent with the corresponding article of the relevant Convention of the International Labor Organization. Because there is a difference between the employer having the right to decide that the employee cannot sit for even one minute, during the entire 8-hour period, and the employer's obligation to ensure that no employee is left standing for long periods of time”.
At the same time, evidence must be submitted by the relevant Department of the Ministry, indicated Mr. Koukoumas, in order to make it clear whether during workplace inspections for safety and health issues it is checked whether workers are forced to stand unreasonably. “We ask this because many times, even if the laws are good, the will is also needed from the competent state agencies to implement them, to control employers, to impose penalties”.
At the same time, the findings of the EOAE report must be used in order to give clear instructions to employers, to set maximum time limits in which an employee is forced to be standing continuously, to give recommendations to properly organize working time and to ergonomically design the workplaces, such as cashiers in stores, changing positions and satisfying breaks.
The AKEL MP concluded by sending a clear message that they will be decisive and demanding in dealing with this practice. “Employees are not robots, and if employers don't understand it, we should make them understand it. Awaiting the answers of the Ministry and the resumption of the works of the Parliament, our initiative has already brought some results. The publication of the submission of AKEL's parliamentary question on the matter gave the opportunity and encouragement for many employees to contact us and also to speak either by name or anonymously on social media about their own experiences of this practice. This is important because it is known that job insecurity and sometimes employer extortion in workplaces do not allow many workers to proceed with complaints, let alone in workplaces where as a rule there is not even a trade union”.