Mental Health in the Retail Sector

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Retailers call for changes in workplace mental health

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There has been a great deal of discussion about mental health in the workplace, we tend to think about it in respect of those that work in an office environment. However, The Grocer reports that more than 50 business leaders including RetailTrust Chief Executive Richard Boland, WH Smith chief Stephen Clarke and British Independent Retails Association boss Andrew Goodacre have all signed an open letter to Theresa May urging that workplaces are obligated to make provisions for mental health first aid in the same way they are for physical health.

Theresa May has always been a strong advocate for improving mental health provision since she became Prime Minister, this was a pledge in her manifesto.

“Thriving at Work”

The report “Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers” commissioned by Theresa May is January last year identified the main points as:

  • Around 15% of people in work have symptoms of a mental health condition
  • Around 6% of people with a long-term mental health condition lose their job each quarter – amounting to 300,000 people each year. This compares to around 4% of those with a physical health condition

The authors Lord Dennis Stevenson (mental health campaigner and former HBOS chief) and Paul Farmer (chief executive of mental health charity Mind) said that everyone, not just people with long-term mental health conditions, has a mental health status, which can move between “thriving at work” to “struggling at work”.

Some of these people will be off sick. However, the report stresses that people with mental health conditions can still thrive at work if they are given the right support.

Mental Health Ill Effects

The key effects of mental ill health include:

  • People being off work (absenteeism)
  • People being in work but being unable to work effectively (presenteeism)
  • Increased workload for the rest of the workforce
  • Increased turnover of the workforce
  • Lack of career progression for those people with a mental health condition

The costs to employers are estimated at:

  • £8 billion for absenteeism
  • £17-£26 billion from lost productivity for presenteeism
  • £8 billion for staff turnover

Of course, costs varied widely between different private sector industries and were higher for the public sector.

Where’s Your Head At?

Where’s Your Head At? Is a campaign which will improve the mental health of the nation by ensuring employers look after the wellbeing of their workforce.

They have delivered a petition to Downing Street calling for the law to be changed. They want to guarantee that it’s easy for everyone to talk about their metal health at work in the same way we discuss our physical health and to ensure there are trained colleagues on site to point staff in the right direction to get help.

WH Smith has been at the forefront of promoting access to first aid for both physical and mental health.

Across more than 1,400 shops in 24 countries, the world’s oldest national retail chain has 150 fully qualified mental health first aiders. 

This matches the number of physical first aiders across the business.

They have invested £250,000 into training all of its 1,100 line managers in mental health first aid skills.