Fair work in the foundational economy: experiences in retail

ReportsResourcesMay 17th, 2021

There is growing interest in the foundational economy, but there is also some concern about the terms and conditions of employment in parts of it.

This report brings together insights from employees, their representatives and employers in retail – a key foundational sector. It finds that:

  • Retail work is predominantly low paid, with the effects of low hourly rates of pay being compounded by widespread use of low hours or variable hours contracts. Many workers feel under real financial pressure as a result.
  • As well as hourly rates of pay, retail workers sometimes experience reductions in other pay-related benefits such as paid breaks.
  • Cuts to staffing, rising workloads, additional tasks related to Covid-19 and limited investment in staff training are putting staff under significant pressure in the workplace. Many retail workers are experiencing poor mental health as a result.
  • Weak management was widely experienced, with reports of favouritism, inconsistent application of policies and lack of regard for employees’ well-being. This sometimes resulted in workers attending work despite being sick.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has increased workers’ concerns about health and safety, particularly in respect of implementing good practice, enforcing customer compliance with requirements and abuse by customers.
  • Trades union membership is relatively low. Some retail employers do not recognise unions or take active steps to limit their influence in the workplace. Some employees are not aware that they can join a union, perceive them to be unrepresentative of their interests and too costly. This creates a vicious circle for unions.

If the foundational economy is to be central to efforts to regenerate the Welsh economy, especially after Covid-19, then terms and conditions in retail, and in other foundational sectors, must be improved. Stronger worker voice, better management practices and fairer contractual arrangements (particularly in terms of hours and pay) should be at the core of improvement efforts.

Report format: PDF

Language: English

Pages: 18

Cost:  Free



Search and filter the archive using any of the following fields:

  • Choose Type:

  • Choose Focus:

  • Choose Tag: