Violence against UK retail workers nearly doubles

UK retail workers are experiencing “appalling levels” of violence and abuse, according to research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Figures from the organisation’s latest crime survey reveal that abuse towards retail employees has nearly doubled since before the pandemic.

The report shows that incidents, including racial and sexual abuse, physical assault, and threats with weapons, jumped from the pre-covid high of more than 450 a day in 2019-2020, to over 850 a day in 2021-2022.

The BRC said that retail crime cost the UK £1.76 billion across 2021-2022, with £953 million lost to customer theft during eight million theft incidents.

Retailers also spent more than £700 million on crime prevention during the same period.

The trade association said that while it welcomed the government’s decision to include its amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act with the aim to better protect people working in retail last year, the Home Office currently does not track the use of this amendment.

This makes it impossible to understand if the changes are having an impact, it continued.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the BRC, said that the police must prioritise adequately resourcing retail crime.

“It is deeply disturbing that the level of incidents faced by retail workers is now higher than before the pandemic,” said Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (Usdaw). “Violence and abuse is not an acceptable part of the job and too many shopworkers suffer all too often.”

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