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Vital that we help workers on shop floor

  • Date: Monday 10th August 2020
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The outbreak of Covid-19 has affected us all - so much so, that experts believe we could be on the brink of a major mental health crisis. During this time of great uncertainty, anxiety levels have been consistently high. Worries around health, isolation and job security are at the forefront of people’s minds.

Now that lockdown restrictions are being cautiously eased in many parts of Scotland and business is starting to return to ‘normal’, a spotlight is being shone on the impact that the pandemic is having on the mental health of workers across a number of industries.

The last few months have had a stark effect on people employed in the retail sector. According to research published last week by charity RetailTrust, health fears, worries about redundancy, long working hours and dealing with aggressive customers are taking their toll on those who selflessly worked round the clock in order to provide essential goods to the public during lockdown.

Between the months of June and July, the organisation provided counselling to more than 900 people, as thousands of staff who had been furloughed during lockdown returned to work faced with enforcing customers to maintain social distancing and to observe other safety measures, such as wearing a face covering.

RetailTrust also revealed that applications from people seeking health support – the vast majority of which related to mental health issues – rose 164 per cent year-on-year in the last two months. I fear that these findings are only be the tip of the iceberg. The Government’s Job Retention Scheme has been of huge benefit in keeping people in jobs, but the funding won’t last forever. I hope that support is put in place for people who may inevitably lose their job when the scheme comes to an end.

Hospitality workers are another group who have also suffered as a result of the pandemic. The sector went into complete shutdown during lockdown and the future of many businesses seemed unclear. For many workers in the sector, their place of employment is now either already closed, showing no signs of reopening, or their position has been made redundant due to a reduced workforce.

Restaurants, bars and hotels are now allowed to reopen in Scotland, but with strict new hygiene regulations in place. Despite this, many businesses are struggling to get back on their feet following this major setback. With social distancing and contact tracing rules in place, some pubs, bars and restaurants are operating well under capacity, meaning trading is not profitable.

Last week, the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme was initiated, offering food and drink discounts to customers in a bid to help re-energise the economy. I welcome this move, as it’s vital that we get the Scottish economy up and running again. However, as seen in Aberdeen, a rise in Covid-19 cases will result in a new regionalised lockdown being imposed. This means that staff and business owners must operate under the looming threat of a second shutdown – a blow that could result in their livelihood disappearing. It’s understandable how this could take a toll on someone’s mental health.

During times like these, it’s vital that we show our support to those who are struggling. One charity carrying out fantastic work is Hospitality Action. The organisation recently launched a campaign called Invisible Chips, which allows you to ‘order chips’ from an online menu. The idea is that by ‘chipping in’ the cost of the nation’s favourite side dish, diners will be able to do their bit to support the thousands of hospitality workers whose jobs are at risk.

I recently read the news that staff at Buzzworks Holdings, who operate a portfolio of bars and restaurants across Scotland, raised £600 for the charity, by collectively walking and cycling the equivalent of 16 marathons. A massive well done to all who were involved.

While a marathon may not be possible for all, I encourage people to show their support to worthy charities such as Hospitality Action and RetailTrust during this challenging time. It will help keep people in jobs and provide increased support for those whose mental health may be suffering.

SIDE (280)

Scottish high streets have faced doom and gloom over the last few months. Recent casualties include Scottish fashion retailer M&Co who were forced to call in administrators Deloitte this week.

They announced plans to close 47 stores and axe 380 jobs as part of a restructure, which they hope will save them from collapse. High street stalwart WH Smith are also considering cutting their workforce by 11 per cent - 1,500 jobs. They say lockdown caused sales to plummet and expect to report a loss of up to £75 million to the year end of August. Bookies, William Hill, have also said 199 high street betting shops will not reopen, affecting 300 staff.

However, some brands are bucking the downward trend. Glasgow based restaurant group, Tony Macaroni, has unveiled plans to roll out franchises in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The chain’s boss says this amounts to investment of £50 million, and could create up to 200 new jobs across 100 new restaurants. Tony Macaroni opened its first restaurant in 2007 and currently employs 500 people across Scotland and Northern Ireland.

While the food and drink industry has suffered a huge financial hit, it is now thankfully starting to reopen to hungry diners. The UK Government backed, Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which sees 50 per cent discount off food and drink at participating restaurants, is meant to incentivise us to eat our tea at a restaurant. But it has led to a little confusion. Some takeaway customers were left puzzled as terms and conditions say the deal only applies to those who are eating in, not takeaway. Maybe the initiative should be renamed Eat In to Help Out?


LAUGH (133)

One of Scotland’s most infamous legends, which some cynics call a marketing trick, has risen from the deep once more as Nessie has reared her head for her first official sighting of 2020.

It’s good to know she is emerging from lockdown like the rest of us, as the beast was spotted from the roadside, just outside Fort Augustus.

Forestry worker, Ross MacAuley’s video appears to show a 12ft long ‘hump’ emerging from the water. Ross was previously a non-believer and has lived in the area for years.

This glimpse is the first ‘verified’ sighting of Nessie this year – having been officially recorded on the official Loch Ness monster sightings register. 

If you’re making a trip up north to see Nessie, then do remember to be mindful of others and the beautiful surroundings.


WEEP (132)

A trip to warmer shores seems like a distant memory. The travel industry has been dealt blow after blow. Grounded flights and the announcement that Spanish holidaymakers have to quarantine for 14 days on return to Scotland, has made trading conditions difficult.

From the big players, like Virgin Atlantic, to independent travel agents, no business has been spared. Even businesses that appeared solvent less than a year ago have been impacted.

In October 2019 Hays Travel swooped in to rescue Thomas Cook employees facing redundancy. However, this week the white knights have fallen on their own sword, with the announcement that 878 employees may lose their jobs.

The owners say they have been left with no choice. A story that we could see repeated as the summer season comes to an end.







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