Nigel Rothband, Chief Executive of Retail Trust

The joy of living and working through turbulent economic times is that the needs of the individual rise at precisely the time that the focus of a business is switched onto big picture commercial focal points more than ever.

So the very time that HR needs to be prioritised and refreshed to deal with new challenges for our workforce can, in reality, be the time of least focus.

We know from our own work in Retail Trust, the charity that looks after all people working in retail, that our helpline has and is seeing a significant rise in calls over the last year and a half. Calls relating to personal challenges, financial, emotional and work relationship issues take on new dimensions in tough times, and these counselling led issues are not what a full time H R department can always cope with as a result.

Time doesn’t always allow when the HR elements of running the business remain to the fore as well.

Which is where I think Employee Assistance Programmes kick in. EAPs don’t replace internal H R, and of course they can carry a cost that needs to be considered. The Uk already spends more than £50m per year in this area.

But it comes back to the old conundrum of balancing costs of investment to keep morale high (or as high as one can expect in a downturn) vs the cost of unhappy staff on business performance.

Not to mention of course the duty of care we all owe our employees when they really need help, help of the counselling variety.

Some very large organisations take advantage of EAP schemes (and I speak from Retail Trust experience) as well as those that maybe don’t have the benefit of well established HR departments.

The benefits can be seen and research regularly shows that time spent dealing with issues one on one genuinely helps with employee health on many levels.

So if you know within that you are missing the link to help a proportion of your workforce cope with their own take on the pressures of current times, I urge you to look into how EAP schemes can make sure you are looking after your workforce in the most rounded way.

Easy to say maybe, but the need is there and our helpline figures are highlighting the gap that shows different solutions are needed for different times.





Nigel J L Rothband, Chief Executive of Retail Trust

Nigel has worked in the retail industry for over 30 years. He started his career with BHS, before moving to Arcadia Group where he spent 14 years in various senior positions. For the 3 years prior to joining Retail Trust Nigel was Managing Director – Retail, at The Body Shop.

Nigel has a long association with the charity and was a member of the Retail Trust London Ball committee for a number of years before joining Retail Trust as the Chief Executive in November 2003.