ACS CEO James Lowman has defended flexible working in convenience stores as good for staff and for communities.

Earlier this week, Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell outlined plans to give flexible workers a range of new rights including sick pay, maternity leave and holiday pay.

Speaking at the launch of the Association of Convenience Stores’ Local Shop Report, held at the National Space Centre in Leicester, Lowman suggested that flexibility isn’t always an exploitative ‘gig economy’.

“Yes, there will be times when staff generally want more flexibility around them and what they need. The government has a decision to make about unregulated areas of the market, but I think we’ve got a good argument that convenience store work is good flexibility,” he said. 

The findings show 45% of shop staff in the UK work 16 hours or less, 32% have childcare commitments outside their job and live an average of 13 minutes from work. 

“The rise in part-time working in the sector demonstrates the flexibility that stores offer to staff who come from within the local area who usually walk to work, and often have other commitments such as study or childcare” added Lowman. 

“However, with stores offering more services, there are increasing opportunities for colleagues to develop new skills as part of their work.”

The report also highlighted the benefits independent retailers bring to communities with average opening hours on the rise, 46% of stores introducing the voluntary charge for plastic bags and 81% of businesses engaging in some form of community activity in the past year. 

“All of this investment and innovation, and our growing relevance to consumers and communities, makes the convenience sector a huge contributor to the UK economy, adding £8.8bn of gross value added, and contributing £3.6bn to the public purse through direct and indirect taxes,” said Lowman.

For 10 key findings from the Local Shop Report, go to betterRetailing.com/acs-2018