Business

Retail body in call for Executive to appoint 'wellbeing minister'

Launching the wellbeing plan at Stormont yesterday are Mental Health Champion Professor Siobhan O’Neill with Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A POST-pandemic recovery plan being proposed by the north's main retail body is calling for the appointment of a new 'Minister of Wellbeing' in the Stormont Executive.

It is among five key recommendations included in the first ever Wellbeing Plan which aims at supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Northern Ireland's retail workers.

And a call was also issued to political parties in the Executive to commit to providing the 34 per cent increase in funding for mental health services recommended in the Department of Health's 10-year mental health strategy so that it can be delivered in full and on schedule.

It comes as statistics reveal that nine out of 10 managers in the north say they've seen an increase in wellbeing concerns among colleagues during the pandemic.

“This is a shocking figure, highlighting the need for the Executive to carefully consider the recommendations in this Wellbeing Plan and recognise their role in providing resources for increased workforce wellbeing,” according to Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts.

He was speaking at an event in Parliament Buildings last night to launch the plan (details at www.retailni.com), which has been produced under the guidance of experts including mental health champion Professor Siobhan O'Neill, Inspire Wellbeing, and the Association of Convenience Stores.

Mr Roberts added: “Retail is the largest sector in Northern Ireland's private sector economy, so it's essential its workforce is supported appropriately.

“The wellbeing of staff is vital in the workplace, and research continues to show that businesses benefit when their staff are happy at work. So by placing more of an emphasis on employees' wellbeing, businesses create a better relationship with their workforce.”

Professor O'Neill told the launch: “It's vital employers support positive mental health and wellbeing in their workforce and ensure that their employees feel valued and protected.

“Employers must create working environments where people feel safe and able to express their feelings. I would encourage retail employers and workers to have more open discussions about how together they can protect and improve the wellbeing of everyone working in retail.

“The Wellbeing Plan is a welcome stepping-stone in starting these conversations and helping people get the support they need.”

The event, sponsored by Pivotal, also heard words of support from Economy Minister Gordon Lyons and economy committee chair Dr Caoimhe Archibald.

Mr Lyons said: “Local retailers have been among those hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic, and as we begin to rebuild our economy the wellbeing of staff is now more important than ever. So this Retail NI wellbeing plan is a welcome resource for the sector.”

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