A careworker from Stoke on Trent was refused entry to a local store because she had not changed out of her work clothes while on a five-minute break. 20-year-old Emily Challinor said that she was “appalled” by staff’s treatment of her.
Challinor, who had stopped to pick up a snack, was told by staff at the Premier store that she wasn’t allowed to enter the premises because she was still wearing her carer’s uniform. Branch officials have commented on the decision taken by staff, saying they have a “duty of care” to their staff and their customers. Premier highlighted the higher risk of Covid-19 to care workers as a valid reason for the “precautionary measure.”
Speaking about the incident, Challinor said, “I was on a five-minute break in my shift which started at 3.30pm and went on until 10pm when it happened.” Heading into the store, which she had been in many times before and during the current lockdown, she was told to wait until current customers had left. However, even when the shop was empty, she was still denied entry, saying that she was asked if she was a carer or worked for the NHS. She was then told, “no carers allowed.”
Challinor says that she “watched as they let every other person in, including five different people in work uniforms but apparently if you’re in a carers’ uniform you aren’t allowed in. I ended up just leaving.” Although the carer has said that she will never return to the store again, she wanted to highlight potential problems for carers attempting to go shopping. She also made a post on Facebook about the incident, saying, “I had a five minute gap between clients-I’m a community care worker- so I went to the shop. I cannot get changed to travel to and from work as I travel all day.” She mentioned the fact that she was also wearing a coat over her work uniform when she was denied entry to the store.
Premier’s spokesman said that “I have asked my members of staff not to allow anyone in wearing a carers’ uniform,” due to having a duty of care to all my employees and customers. Recently the convenience store made the news after a pair of paramedics had long queues of shoppers willing to pay for their groceries.
Premier isn’t the only retail outlet struggling to know how to cope with the social distancing issues caused by the pandemic. In mid-April, chain store Iceland came under fire after demanding that NHS workers had to buy anything that they touch while browsing. The Iceland website has now removed the large warning that said, “If NHS workers touch products they have to buy them, they can’t put them back” and have apologised for the blunder.
The advice from the government is that NHS workers should change into non-work clothes when not on-site, but that this recommendation “does not apply to community health workers who are required to travel between patients.”