Stores to fit protective checkout screens to shield staff
Morrisons, Iceland, Sainsbury’s and Aldi are to install thousands of protective screens at checkouts to keep staff safe as concerns grow about their wellbeing while dealing with hundreds of customers a day during the coronavirus outbreak.
Several retailers have asked shoppers to keep at least two metres away from staff at tills but some shop workers have said on social media that they have not been allowed to wear protection such as masks.
The general secretary of the shop workers’ union, Usdaw, Paddy Lillis, said: “We have increasing concerns about the safety and welfare of staff.”
Supermarkets and their staff have come under huge pressure as shoppers have stockpiled goods and prioritised cooking at home.
Some retailers said they had struggled to source enough protective equipment for staff in stores, because suppliers were understandably giving priority to the NHS. More than 3,000 supermarket workers have signed a petition on the employee campaigning platform Organise calling for masks and gloves to be supplied.
Lillis said: “We are calling on retailers to continue to improve their stores and procedures to help protect staff.”
The union welcomed the new measures but said it wanted retailers to protect staff further with measures including a limit on the number of customers in a store at any time, an increased security presence, restrictions that require customers to shop alone if possible and only buy what they needed and measures to enforce essential workers’ and vulnerable people’s shopping hours
Morrisons’ chief executive, David Potts, said the company had employed 83 fitting teams to install protective screens at every checkout as soon as possible. “The wellbeing of colleagues is paramount,” he said. It has also put hand sanitiser on all tills and marked out social-distancing points.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda are understood to be reviewing further protection measures such as potentially limiting the number of shoppers in stores at one time, but have not provided workers with masks.
Tesco said it had introduced socialdistancing measures, such as lines on the floor, around checkouts and queue barriers in large stores.
Sainsbury’s said it would now be asking customers to stand two metres away from each other and staff wherever possible and to pay by card. It will start installing acrylic screens at the end of this week. But one Tesco worker told the Guardian: “A lot of workers don’t feel comfortable.”
Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s is also handing hourly paid staff in its supermarkets, Argos chain, delivery network and customer contact centres a one-off 10% increase in hourly pay between 9 March and 5 April. Sainsbury’s said the payment was in recognition of “going above and beyond to serve customers”.
▼ A woman keeps her crash helmet on while shopping in east London. Supermarket trips have risen 12%