100 of the UK’s leading retailers have written to the Prime Minister calling on him to support an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would tackle escalating violence and abuse against retail workers.
The Bill has its report stage and third reading in Parliament today, Monday, July 5.
The letter comes just after a Home Affairs Select Committee report last week, which concluded that a new criminal offence is needed to protect retail workers from a “shocking upsurge in violence and abuse.”
The British Retail Consortium’s most recent crime survey reveals a 7% year-on-year increase in incidents of violence and abuse in 2019 – 455 cases each day – while recent research by retailers shows that the rate of incidents has risen even further during the pandemic, as retailers have been working hard to ensure shops are safe and customers follow COVID-19 rules.
One business reported a 76% increase in abuse and a 10% increase in violent attacks during the pandemic, of which over half involved a weapon, and many staff have been coughed at or spat on. Other flashpoints include encountering shoplifters or challenging customers for ID when they are purchasing age restricted items.
The BRC and its members have long campaigned for greater protection in law for retail workers and want to see workers in England and Wales offered the same protection as those in Scotland, where Daniel Johnson MSP’s Protection of Workers Bill became law earlier this year.
Retailers are spending record amounts on crime prevention and have invested £1.2 billion in the past year alone on crime prevention. This includes a range of measures such as body worn cameras, personal attack alarms and increased security personnel.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Retailer workers are facing violence and abuse very day just for doing their jobs – keeping customers safe during the pandemic, checking ID, and confronting shoplifters.
“Behind each of these statistics is a person, a family, colleagues and communities that have to cope with this trauma. No-one should go to work fearing for their safety, yet many retail workers have come to see it as part of the job – this can’t go on.”