The retail sector has a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to prevent incoming mental health storm

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The UK retail sector has a once in a lifetime opportunity to prevent a potential mental health storm that could impact millions of workers

  • retailTRUST launches the 2020 health of retail report highlighting the triumvirate of COVID-induced stress facing retail workers
  • #forthefour campaign calls for retailers to protect the wellbeing of millions of industry colleagues
  • UK retail workers have reported their mental wellbeing to be lower than that of employees in both education and law, as the next two most impacted sector
  • Abuse, threats and assaults against shopworkers doubled during the Coronavirus emergency reports Shopworker’s trade union Usdaw
  • 424 incidents of violence or abuse towards retail staff occurs every day - a rise of 9% on 2019*
  • Retail crime costs the economy  £2.2 billion cost to the industry, according to the BRC

On the eve of World Mental Health Day (10 October) and ahead of National Work Life Week (12-16 October), retailTRUST launches its ‘2020 health of retail’ report, which identifies a triumvirate of pandemic-induced stress and anxiousness facing UK retail workers.

1. Financial instability: this year so far 13,867* shops have closed, up 24.8 percent on the same period last year, non-food retailers have lost more than £9bn in sales*, and 125,000 retail jobs have been lost; the imminent end of the government’s Job Retention Scheme (31 October) and uncertainty around the Job Support Scheme, which is set to replace it, are all causing concern.

2. Uncertainty and the fear of the unknown, caused by the threat of redundancy (Institute for Employment Studies (IES) reported 700,000 UK employees at risk of being made redundant in the second half of 2020) and the overwhelming nature of reporting about the future performance of the UK retail sector.

3. Social disconnect, at home and work caused by lockdown restrictions, which have led directly to an increase in physical, verbal and racial assaults from customers and a ‘hero to zero’ change in public opinion about store workers.

“Socioeconomically, the pandemic has been linked with a host of hardships: isolation, bereavement, alcohol and drug use, domestic violence, financial strain and criminality” said retailTRUST Chief Medical Advisor Dr Adrian Massey who authored the 2020 Health of Retail Report.

“Surveys of mental wellbeing demonstrate widespread distress across the population. Demand for public services is acute and the abrupt decline in economic activity means government access to funding is constrained. Retail workers are especially exposed to COVID-19 related health and wealth risks and, if we are to minimise subsequent harm, we must pull together now to offer support.”

In light of the report, retailTRUST today launches a nationwide #forthefour campaign, calling on retail leaders to act now to protect the wellbeing of the industry’s 4.5 million-strong workforce.

Paula Coughlan, Chief People Officer, Dixons Carphone who is participating in retailTRUST’s online event said: “Retail is facing into one of the most challenging periods in the sector’s history. To preserve an industry that gives so much back to local communities we must focus on the health and wellbeing of those who work in it.

“At Dixons Carphone, we moved fast to keep our colleagues safe when the pandemic hit, ensuring the safety of our colleagues enabling them to keep bringing their best selves to work and to support our customers. We have a responsibility to all of our colleagues, not just as a business but as human beings. They are the lifeblood of retail and the driving force behind an industry that powers our economy. That’s why retailTRUST’s #forthefour campaign providing a very tangible support network is vitally important.”

retailTRUST CEO Chris Brook-Carter: “The retail industry is the second largest employer in the UK after the NHS, so the sector has a huge responsibility to come together during the most challenging period of retailTRUST’s 188-year history. One in four UK adults experiences a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime, but four in four – so, every single one of us – will experience a major setback or life event that can affect our mental and physical wellbeing. This situation is getting worse as a result of the pandemic.

"retailTRUST’s pioneering approach provides financial, emotional, physical and vocational services for the #forthefour working in retail. We've seen so many fantastic examples of businesses taking action to protect the wellbeing of their colleagues and the response to the #forthefour campaign so far has been brilliant. Our vision for our #forthefour campaign is for every one of our colleagues to have free and quick access to help and preventative support to manage their wellbeing whenever they need it by building a coalition of businesses and leaders that recognises the responsibility the industry has to look after the people that contribute to its financial success, and build a healthy, happy, diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects retail’s position as the premier industry in the UK economy.”

The retailTRUST #forthefour nationwide campaign includes a three-day ‘Championing the Health of Retail’ event, which runs from 19-21 October and helps retail leaders to ‘lead the industry’, ‘lead their teams’ and ‘lead themselves’. Presenters include Boots COO Tracey Clements,  Dixons Carphone Chief People Officer Paula Coughlan, former Asda CEO Andy Clarke, ASOS non-exec director Rita Clifton CBE and Dr Adrian Massey.

Retailers are invited to sign up for free at www.retailtrust.org.uk/forthefour

Over 160 representatives from retailers are already confirmed to take part including Christian Louboutin, Dixons Carphone, HSBC and Boots, Topshop, Screwfix, Homebase, White Stuff, Domino’s, IKEA, Schuh, Matalan, Harvey Nichols, The Very Group, B&Q, Carpetright, Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo and Iceland.