The mental health impact of Covid-19 in retail and health

Mental health issues are rising up the agenda for employers in retail and the NHS.

Impact of COVID-19


Mental health is becoming a more prominent issue at work, with new reports on the NHS and the retail sector showing increases in stress among workers.

A report from absence management system FirstCare shows the NHS lost 165,000 working days due to mental health-related staff absences during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. NHS employees reported 29% more absences from work due to poor mental health compared to the UK average between April and June. The number of mental health absences in the NHS is up 22% year-on-year, the report shows.

Meanwhile, researchers from King’s College London and Harvard have concluded that frontline healthcare workers with adequate PPE have a three-fold increased risk of testing positive for coronavirus, compared to the general population. Those with inadequate PPE have a further increase in risk. The data also shows that healthcare workers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to test positive.

The Charity Retail Trust has also warned of a mental health crisis among shop workers amid months of health fears, concerns over job security and having to deal with aggressive members of the public during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Trust reported a 50% year-on-year rise in the number of applications for financial aid from the charity between March and July this year, and a year-on-year increase of 164% in applications from people seeking health support – most of which are related to mental health issues – between June and July. While there have been many job losses already, there are fears of the impact of the end of the furlough scheme in October.

In addition, a recent survey by communications firm Vocovo shows that 48% of retail workers have suffered verbal abuse since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, while 32% have experienced physical violence in that time.  The Co-op has reported record levels of abuse towards store staff since the new rules legally requiring shoppers to wear masks were introduced. The retailer said that almost all of the 990 incidents of anti-social behaviour and verbal abuse recorded between July 20 and Sunday 26 were related to the wearing of face masks

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