How can retailers offset warehouse risk?

As a number of UK retailers have learnt in recent months, a disconnect between retail warehouses and head offices creates the risk of certain staff members being poorly treated behind closed doors.

Principal associate Jemma O’Reilly at the law firm Gowling WLG says: “Retail operations in particular are open to risk, not only because they are spread over a number of different sites, but due to the inherent mix of permanent, temporary and agency staff that are used by the bigger players.

“However, failing to ensure that employment law is enforced consistently throughout these separate groups and sites leaves the way open for abuse of the system and the risk of successful tribunal claims.”

In doing this, retailers not only fall foul of the law – sometimes for practices that senior management had no knowledge of – but they risk missing out on the benefits that come with a content and cohesive workforce.

“Ensuring that the acceptable working conditions and treatment of all staff in the retail sector are maintained should be a priority, given that union representation is not typical in this sector,” says O’Reilly.

“A focus on implementing straightforward policies and ensuring management recognise the importance of reviews and spot checks is what really helps better guarantee adherence throughout their entire operations.”

The benefits of doing this not only affect internal productivity levels, but also sends the right message to customers.

“We live in an age of a savvier consumer who demands more than just a simple transaction, but to purchase it from a retailer that fits in with their values, which typically include how they treat those who work for them – simply ignoring the problem or the potential for it to occur is, therefore, not an option,” concludes O’Reilly.