Holland and Barrett has said its stores will remain open during the Covid-19 pandemic as the government views it as an essential company, despite pleas from staff to close sites over safety concerns.
Staff members have launched a petition calling for stores to be closed in a bid to reduce the risk to employees and customers. According to the petition on Change.org, which now has over 4,000 signatures at the time of writing, staff claim that the company has not been providing staff with hand washes, anti-bacterial gels and other forms of protection to reduce the chance of catching the virus.
The statement continued: “Many of us travel to work using public transport which is dangerous enough as it is. We are surrounded by those who are most at risk when using public transport, this includes the elderly, pregnant women, people with HIV, asthma etc.
“The stores need to be closed, so we not only keep ourselves safe but also the nation. All we want is to be safe and be with our loved ones during this period of crisis.”
In response a Holland and Barrett spokesperson said the company is working “around the clock” to ensure its teams are as safe as possible whilst staying open to meet the needs of our customers.
They added that the company has provided gloves, masks and hand sanitiser to all of its store colleagues and have also installed shielding screens at the counter, and are following all other safety advice.
The health and wellbeing retailer said it will continue to remain open as it sells food that caters for those with dietary requirements, including pregnant women in need of folic acid supplementation, those with milk and egg allergies and those outlined by the government as ‘at-risk’ groups in need of vitamin D supplementation.
Holland and Barret also said it is “bolstering” its online capacity as quickly as possible so customers can order from home where possible, and has also set up a new customer phone line for those customers who cannot access its website for home delivery.
The spokesperson said: “Any colleague self-isolating under government guidelines because of symptoms, or symptoms in someone they live with, will receive full pay for the recommended self-isolation period.
“‘We have also written to those colleagues who have identified themselves as ‘most at risk’ to offer options for working from home. If this is not possible they will receive full pay for up to the 12 week isolation period.”
They added: “We have asked all colleagues who have any concerns about these safety measures or who need more gloves, masks or sanitiser provided to contact either their manager or our dedicated colleague helpline.”