Most owners of sari shops and other retail outlets forbid women, the bulk of the shop workforce, to sit. Even leaning against a wall can be punished. Lunch is 30 minutes. Toilet breaks are strictly limited. Talking to colleagues can lead to salary deductions. Employers monitor CCTV footage to check for compliance.
On 4 July, the Kerala state cabinet, reacting to street protests by shop assistants, announced it would amend the existing law, which fails to specify which amenities should be provided to sales assistants, to include the right to sit. “It’s our policy to protect the interests of all our women workers and this gap in the law had to be plugged,” said Thozil Bhawan, a labour commissioner.
The new law will stipulate a minimum monthly starting salary of 10,000 rupees (£110), an eight-hour day, a chair or stool, an afternoon tea break, and a lunch break, with a duration yet to be decided by the Kerala cabinet, be provided.