Government urged to do more to protect retail workers

Shop workers need better legal protection from violence and abuse in their workplace according to the British Retail Consortium, which says government must do more to combat a rising trend of incidents.

The BRC says that violence and abuse against retail workers is getting worse with 455 incidents every day in 2019-20 – a 7% rise on the previous year. Incidents have soared since the pandemic as staff have tried to ensure customers follow Covid-19 rules. Other flashpoints include challenging shoplifters or asking customers for ID when they are purchasing age-restricted items. The rise in incidents is despite a record £1.2bn investment in safety measures such as body-worn cameras, more security personnel and panic alarms.

The new Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) Act 2021 came into force in Scotland last month after it was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament, meaning staff in Scotland are better protected than those in England and Wales. The BRC is calling for the Government to pass legislation that would make assaulting or abusing a retail worker a specific offence, with tougher sentences for offenders. It believes this would act as a deterrent and ensure retail workers feel safer, and would increase visibility of incidents so that police forces can allocate appropriate resources and ensure they provide an adequate response.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “We need legislation in England and Wales to protect our hard-working retail colleagues. It makes no sense nor is it remotely fair that people who work in retail are better protected in Dundee than they are in Doncaster.

“The current laws simply do not go far enough. Most offenders go unpunished, while victims and their families are left traumatised. We cannot let another year to go by with rising crime statistics and a mounting pile of deplorable stories of violence and abuse in shops. The government needs to act, and deliver on its commitment to protect retail workers.”

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