LAW understand the challenges of the retail sector.
The retail sector is the UK’s largest private sector employer, generating over 3 million jobs. With a largely part-time workforce and higher than average staff turnover, the sector is often at the frontline in managing employment legislation and employee relations issues. It’s little wonder that the seminal employment law case on unfair dismissal has its origins in the sector. While British Home Stores is no longer a high street staple, its place in history is secured in the 1970’s case of British Home Stores v Burchell, which remains a cornerstone of UK employment law.
Even today, the sector remains at the forefront of shaping the employment law landscape. The recent case brought against Tesco, which seeks equal pay for retail assistants when compared to warehouse operatives, with an estimated value of £4 billion, is being watched with interest by retailers up and down the country and is, but one, stark example of the challenges facing the sector.
Against a backdrop of ever reducing profit margins and increasing costs, many retailers are having to take decisive action to streamline their operations, while seeking increasingly innovative and efficient ways of working. Our team of highly experienced employment lawyers has significant expertise in advising on all aspects of retail employment law as well as an acute understanding of the issues facing our retail clients. Whether it be advising on the implications of the National Living Wage, unlawful deductions or holiday pay to assisting with complex reorganisations, TUPE, collective grievances or discrimination cases, the team has a wealth of experience to call upon and are on hand to guide you through the employment law minefield so that you can get on with the important job of managing your business.
In safety, retailers are often in the tabloids for very visible breaches of safety legislation and best practice, such as:
- The retailer fined £1 million for 24 safety and fire breaches in a number of stores;
- A spa bath causing two fatalities in a retail store;
- Another £1 million fine for a retailer where a staff member had toes amputated;
- A £400k fine for a retailer where a customer died after slipping on wet floor;
- And finally, the retail store fined £2.5 million for the death of a contractor’s fall from height.
All of these are truly horrific events that went through the courts in the last few years. Each event related to a common hazard, where failings could have been easily identified and put right. But they weren't, and at what cost to those who died or were seriously injured? Fines are increasing as well, and the new sentencing guidelines introduced in 2016 are having an impact. We at LAW believe these incidents can be prevented, with robust auditing, using well-experienced and qualified safety professionals... perhaps not those who just came out of university, or someone with a checklist. Auditing in the retail sector is a skill. It takes experience to recognise significant risks and thoroughly review ways of working. Too many businesses believe that procedures are being followed, and checklists simply become ‘everything satisfactory’. The cases that have hit the courts in the last few years prove that, for many retailers, safety may be worth further consideration.
Our partnership with LAW/Empire is both a successful and integral one within our business, in how they provide us with exceptional support, timely and practical advice on all HR issues. Through having a deep understanding of our business, they provide professional, relevant and honest counsel to help us ensure that we always treat our colleagues in a caring and compassionate manner, whilst supporting the business in the delivery of our strategic objectives. In addition, they provide further support to McColl’s including briefings before specific legal proceedings, HR document templates, training & Health & Safety support including examples of recent case law to support our decision making. Their role is an important practical and legal role, yet one which helps to build knowledge and capability for our Managers and I would not hesitate to recommend LAW/Empire as a part of your business support.
Head of Colleague Experience, McColl's Retail Group