Retail sector calls for crackdown on shop worker abuse

A group of trade bodies representing workers in the retail sector have called for more to be done to tackle widespread violence and abuse against shop workers.

A letter sent to home secretary Sajid Javid and signed by groups including the Association of Convenience Stores, British Retail Consortium, USDAW and the Charity Retailers Association calls on the government, justice system and retailers themselves to act against rising levels of abuse targeting retail workers.

Figures from the 2019 ACS Crime Report show that in the convenience sector alone, there were almost 10,000 incidents of violence and abuse last year.

Additionally, USDAW’s Freedom From Fear survey shows that over the last year, nearly two thirds of shopworkers experienced verbal abuse and 40 per cent were threatened by a customer.

The British Retail Consortium’s most recent Retail Crime Survey found that 115 workers are attacked every day, also highlighting some very concerning case studies.

The letter makes a series of recommendations to Government for tackling violence and abuse, so that the nearly three million retail workers in the UK no longer have to face violence and abuse on a daily basis.

-Tougher sentences for those who attack shopworkers

-Change to the out of court disposals system (e.g. fixed penalty notices) which is failing to have an impact on reoffending

-A full review into the response of police forces to incidents of violence in the retail sector

The calls come as the home office closes its 12-week call for evidence on violence and abuse

Responses from thousands of shops and shopworkers have been submitted, highlighting the cost of violence and abuse and frustration around the way that offenders are being dealt with.

James Lowman, chief executive of the association of convenience stores, said: “Retailers and staff that have been subjected to abuse often give up on reporting crimes to the police because nothing is done, and that needs to change.

"We need fundamental reform of the justice system to deter criminals from committing lower level offences."

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said “Retail is the largest private sector employer in the UK, with roughly 3 million employees spread across each and every community, and violence against employees is the most difficult issue it faces.

She added: “These are not victimless crimes: they impact upon the skilled, passionate, committed individuals who make the industry so vibrant, as well as their families and loved ones. That is why so many of our members and aligned groups have come together to ask the Government to do more to tackle this problem, and do it now.”

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