Retail CEOs demand prime minister's action on shop assaults

Over 65 UK retail CEOs and organisations have written to prime minister Boris Johnson demanding legislation specifically designed to protect shop workers from verbal and physical abuse, as the pandemic makes the problem worse.

The letter calls for legislation to make assaulting shop workers a separate offence, the same as in recent legislation passed in Scotland.

The letter demands the government to “treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves” and “improve protection for our employees by creating a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker”.

Such legislation, they say, would “toughen sentences” for those who are violent or abusive towards shopworkers, “deter” future perpetrators and ensure shopworkers “feel safer at work”.

Recent British Retail Consortium (BRC) research found that 100 per cent of retailers - allowed to remain open during the pandemic - had seen an increase in verbal abuse, and two-thirds reported an increase in the number of incidents of physical violence against staff during the current lockdown.

All retailers questioned said the enforcement of COVID restrictions when shopping - like the wearing of masks or social distancing - was the trigger for the increases.

One shopper returned to a shop with an axe and threatened staff with it after being told to shop alone to reduce the threat of infection.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Every day over 400 retail staff are attacked, threatened or abused in their place of work, and these numbers have been rising during the pandemic.

She added: “No one should go to work fearing for their safety, and we hope the prime minister will play his part by introducing a new offence for abusing, threatening and assaulting a retail worker.”

The letter has been signed by: ALDI, Ann Summers, ASDA Stores, Association of Convenience Stores, B&Q, Bensons for Beds, BIRA, Burger King, Booksellers Association, Boots UK, Bravissimo, BRC, Card Factory, Carpetright, Cath Kidston, Central England Co-operative, Costa Coffee, Costcutter Supermarkets, Debenhams, Dixons Carphone Group, Dune Group, Greggs, Harvey Nichols, hmv, Homebase, Iceland Foods, IKEA, JD Sports, John Lewis, KFC, Lidl, L’Occitane, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, McKesson, Mountain Warehouse, Music Industries Association, NFRN, Pets at Home, Post Office, Poundland, Primark, Reiss, Richer Sounds, Sainsbury’s, Savers Health and Beauty, Schuh, Scottish Grocers’ Federation, Scottish Midland Co-operative Society, Screwfix Direct, Seasalt, SPAR UK, Starbucks UK, Studio Retail, Superdrug Stores, The Body Shop, The Co-operative Group, The Fragrance Group, The Perfume Shop, Timpson, USDAW, Vision Express, Waitrose, WHSmith, Wickes Building Supplies and Morrisons.

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