The National Retail Association (NRA) has released a report detailing the health and wellbeing struggles of Australia’s second largest workforce as they battle COVID-19.
Australia’s 1.5 million retail workers have been at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the NRA, weathering increased risk, stress, and abuse.
NRA CEO Dominique Lamb says that the ‘Health and Wellbeing of Australian Retail Workers’ report revealed the challenges during COVID-19 and the need to classify retail workers as frontline essential workers.
“The retail sector is the second largest workforce in Australia and contributes $329 billion to the economy each year,” says Ms Lamb.
“Australia’s 1.5 million retail workers have battled an unprecedented set of challenges during the pandemic. Feedback from our members is that they are suffering high levels of stress and anxiety leading to mental health issues and an increase in poor lifestyle choices such as smoking.
“We’d like to see the government recognise retailers as an essential frontline service and implement a Retail Resilience Program to educate workers on how to cope during the pandemic. Areas that require urgent attention include mental health issues, high smoking rates and exposure to violent crime at work.”
The report also revealed the need to address issues relating to retail workers such as customer abuse, retail crime, domestic and family violence, and poor lifestyle choices.
“The NRA’s 28,000 membership base has relayed to us the dramatic rise in workplace safety issues,” says Ms Lamb.
“Some retailers have reported up to a 400 per cent increase in aggression and abuse following customer anger at retail restrictions.
“Retail workers are also experiencing increased retail crime and related violence, with over 85 per cent experiencing verbal or physical abuse while trying to prevent crime. Many business owners have been forced to employ security guards and crowd controllers to ensure social distancing measures are followed.
“The NRA also takes very seriously its commitment to women, who make up 55 per cent of the retail workforce. That’s why we have outlined in our report policies to support the 100,000 retail workers who are currently experiencing domestic and family violence.
“We’d also like to see measures that assist retail staff in making better lifestyle choices. This includes combatting the alarmingly high rate of smoking among retail employees by exploring nicotine-based smoke-free alternatives that help transition people away from traditional cigarettes.”
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