Nearly two dozen UK retailers, including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl GB, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, NISA and Sainsbury’s have all urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson for legislative change following increasing levels of abuse and violence to shop workers who try to enforce age-related sales or pandemic protocols.
A bill proposed by Alex Norris MP entitled Assaults on Retail Workers calls upon Government to create a new offence which would carry higher penalties for those that abuse or attack shop workers.
“In partnership with our colleagues on the front-line, with USDAW and with a cross-party coalition of MPs, we support Alex Norris’ Private Members Bill to provide that greater protection for our colleagues," the letter from the retail bosses, who collectively employ over 1.25 million shop workers, says. “This united response from business leaders, trade unions and frontline workers should demonstrate the need for these additional protections. We believe there is a clear and broad-based consensus behind this Bill, and we ask that the Government acts now to support this important Bill and find time for it to pass through Parliament.”
More than 400 retail workers face violence and abuse in the workplace every day, with the incidents often the result of staff challenging shoplifters, or more recently, in attempting to implement coronavirus safety measures, according to the British Retail Consortium’s 2020 retail crime survey.
“Our nation’s shop workers are heroes and as important key workers they have played a vital role in providing communities across the country with access to food, household goods, financial services, prescriptions and medication all the way through lockdown, says Jo Whitfield, CEO, Co-op Food, said. "It is simply not part of their job to face a torrent of verbal or physical abuse, and we want the Government to do their bit in introducing legislation that will make shop workers feel safer when they go to work.”
The Association of Convenience stores noted in a survey it conducted that a quarter of violent incidents resulted in injury. Retailers are spending a record £1.2 billion on crime prevention measures to keep their colleagues safe but are now calling on the Government to play their part.
“Our members have become increasingly concerned by the increase in abuse aimed at retail employees and owners, and unfortunately the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the problem," Andrew Goodacre, CEO, British Independent Retail Association, said."Independent retailers cannot afford extra security staff and so we need the relevant authorities to take this issue seriously and protect the people who have more than played their role in supporting their local communities throughout this current crisis.”
Debbie Robinson, CEO of Central England Co-op, added: “Stronger laws and punishments are needed for criminals who feel that it is acceptable to target shop workers in these types of brutal and appalling ways. While we continue to campaign for more to be done, we also want to send a message to would-be criminals. We have a zero tolerance approach to any kind of crime and, if you still want to commit a crime, we will work around the clock with local police forces to bring you to justice in an effort to keep our colleagues and customers safe.”