The UK government holds the nation’s unemployment rate as a high priority.

It’s simply a case of benefiting the overall economy: less people on job seekers allowance and more people with a disposable income means more money heading into the economy. But with the current trend of high street stores closing still a pattern through 2019 so far, and with retail workers suffering the fallout of unemployment levels as a result, what can be done by this sector to lower the unemployment rate?

Unemployment due to disability

For many people, work becomes difficult to obtain due to disability. In order to reduce the amount of people who are out of work down to a disability, The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work launched a campaign in 2018 which retailers can voluntarily opt in to. It is called the “Disability Confident” employer scheme which provides employers with the skills, examples and confidence to recruit and develop disabled employees.

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It is hoped that there will be a notable increase in the number of disabled people given the opportunity to work within the retail industry, which is a benefit to both the employee and the employer. By looking at the Disability Confident list of employers that have signed up, we can see that branches of big names such as Asda, Barclays, and B&M Bargains are all committed.

The issue of diversity

Diversity is a hot topic across the board, and consistently so in employment. In 2017 it was reported that retail companies in the FTSE 100 are ahead of other industries when it comes to gender diversity. Retailers should focus on broadening their selection process when it comes to the recruitment process. This can ensure that those who’ve lost a job in a retail position face equal opportunity when it comes to finding a new role. 

Observing diversity in the workplace is beneficial to businesses and to the workforce. Ultimately, when a workforce is representative of a customer base, it can lead to a better understanding of the target market and an improvement in business performance.

Working alongside charities

Collaboration with charities can be very beneficial for those who are finding job hunting difficult. Partnering with a disabled or mental health charity for example can help you reach those who are out of work because of a disability or health issue and encourage them to apply.

Oxford shirts retailer CT Shirts is one example of this. This company has a long-standing partnership with the Prince’s Trust which involves fundraising and a mutually beneficial relationship. This charity works closely with vulnerable young people who need a helping hand to get their lives back on track. Like many retailers that The Trust works with, CT Shirts took advantage of one of their “Get Hired” days — a day of greetings and interviews with young people who have been through The Prince’s Trust Programmes to get to know some potential employees.

Training across disciplines

Where one opportunity ends, others may be beginning within the same business. It’s true that for many retailers, while the jobs of their in-store employees may be at risk, often recruitment in their digital marketing and e-commerce teams are still growing. Therefore, an important consideration to make is whether retail employees should be trained in other areas of the business too. Or at least should their knowledge of the company and its products or services be valued so that their given the opportunity to progress in another area of the business after redundancy?

There are naturally advantages and disadvantages to this route, but it is definitely something to consider if redundancies are on the cards for a company. Cross-discipline training can also encourage more loyal employees and therefore those who are more invested in the performance of the retail business as a whole.

There are many layers of opportunity that employers must consider when tackling unemployment levels. As some companies pave the way, it’s down to other industry players to make big changes too.