Workforce survey – 76% of retailers affected by worker isolations

Staff shortages are the most pressing challenge facing retailers, with over three quarters of businesses saying they have staff in isolation due to Covid-19, according to a member’s survey by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).


The findings of an online poll of ARA members, representing thousands of businesses nationally both large and small, include:

  • 76% of retail businesses say they currently have staff in isolation

  • 50% of retail businesses ranked ‘staff shortages’ as the number one challenge at the moment with ‘lack of customers’ and ‘supply chain/delivery issues’ the next most pressing challenges

  • A third of retail businesses (33%) say they have limited trading hours in some locations

  • One in five retail businesses (20%) say they have closed some locations due to staff shortages

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said it’s an ongoing juggling act for retailers and their rostering managing the current isolation requirements.


“We’ve entered an unprecedented staffing challenge as more people are infected with Covid than at any stage before in the pandemic,” Mr Zahra said. “This builds on an existing skills crisis within the retail and hospitality sectors.


“Many retailers are having to limit trading hours or close stores altogether because they don’t have the staff available. For small businesses, a couple of cases can wipe out their entire workforce.


“We welcome the moves to ease isolation requirements on essential workers who are close contacts. However, more needs to be done to ease the pressure on this critical workforce so they can adequately staff their stores and move essential goods efficiently across the country.


“It’s important that all levels of government continue to work with industry to clear any impediments to getting people safely back to work and return domestic supply chains to a more sustainable footing.”


Mr Zahra repeated calls for each level of government to:

  • ensure free (government subsidised), immediate and appropriate priority access to Rapid Antigen Tests for essential, frontline retail and distribution centre workers

  • immediately provide an efficient and timely reporting mechanism for RAT tests for retail and distribution centre workers, preferably via state QR check-in systems

  • immediately end requirements (where they exist) for reporting of test results to multiple agencies before employees are cleared to work

  • allow workers who test negative to return to the workforce as soon as practically possible

“Whilst we expect supply chain challenges to linger for the rest of the year due to global pressures, we do expect this short-term congestion to ease in the coming weeks as Omicron cases hopefully peak and decline as predicted by the health authorities,” Mr Zahra said.


“Retailers are working intensely to solve these challenges for their customers as they have throughout the pandemic. We ask that customers remain patient and respectful towards their teams during this intense period.”


** There were more than 162 respondents to an online poll conducted 7 – 10 January. Retail respondents were from all states and territories across a diverse range of businesses, including enterprise level retail and SMBs **





For more details:

Dominic Cuschieri 0418 224 072



About us: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s oldest, largest and most diverse retail body, representing a $360bn sector which employs 1.3 million Australians. As Australia’s peak retail body, representing more than 100,000 retail shop fronts, the ARA informs, advocates, educates, protects and unifies independent, national and international retail members. To learn more about ARA’s exclusive benefits and more, visit



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