Survey Reveals Alarming Rise in Absences and Deteriorating Mental Health Among Retail Staff

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The retail industry, one of the largest employers in Britain, has long been a bustling and dynamic sector. However, behind the scenes, a concerning trend is emerging. A recent survey conducted by the charity Retail Trust sheds light on the deteriorating mental health of retail workers and the increasing challenges they face in their daily roles. With cases of abuse, theft, and rising costs, the strain on retail employees has reached alarming levels. This article delves into the survey findings, highlighting the struggles faced by retail workers and the steps being taken by retailers to address these issues.

Mental Health Deterioration and Rising Absences:

The survey, which encompassed over 1,500 employees, found that a staggering eight out of ten retail workers reported a decline in their mental well-being due to the pressures associated with working in stores. The demands of the job, coupled with the strain brought on by the pandemic, have taken a toll on the emotional and psychological well-being of these employees. Furthermore, 50% of retail managers noted an increase in staff absences, indicating the severity of the situation.

Abuse and Theft: Unfortunate Realities:

Among the distressing findings, cases of abuse and theft within the retail sector stood out. The Retail Trust survey revealed instances of workers being subjected to verbal abuse and even physical violence. In some cases, employees were driven to steal from stores themselves. This toxic environment has forced retailers to take action, with some setting up dedicated task forces to protect their staff from aggressive shoppers. Tragically, the survey also highlighted a marked increase in retail workers experiencing thoughts of suicide, underscoring the urgent need for support and intervention.

Pandemic-Driven Frustrations:

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by retail workers. Consumers, frustrated by mask requirements and social distancing measures, have vented their anger and frustrations on these frontline employees. This wave of aggression has not only affected their mental health but has also led to a surge in cases of violence and threats when employees attempt to intervene in instances of theft or misconduct. As the cost of living continues to rise, shoplifting has become more common, compounding the difficulties faced by both workers and retailers alike.

Retailers’ Response:

Recognizing the urgency of addressing these issues, retailers are taking steps to support their employees. Approximately one-third of retailers have implemented pay raises that either match or exceed inflation rates, providing financial relief to their staff. Additionally, half of the retailers surveyed are offering various forms of financial assistance, such as aid with bill payments, salary advances, and interest-free loans. These measures aim to alleviate some of the financial pressures faced by retail workers, demonstrating a commitment to their well-being.


The Retail Trust survey has shed light on the profound impact of working in the retail sector, with deteriorating mental health, rising absences, and instances of abuse and theft taking a heavy toll on employees. The challenges faced by retail workers highlight the urgent need for comprehensive support and measures to protect their well-being. Retailers are beginning to address these issues by implementing pay raises and offering financial assistance, but more comprehensive and sustained efforts are required to safeguard the mental health and safety of those who contribute to this vital industry. By recognizing the invaluable role of retail workers and prioritizing their welfare, we can work towards creating a healthier and more supportive environment within the retail sector.

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