Violence against shop workers hits 10-year high

Incidents of violence and abuse against shop workers in the UK have reached their highest level in a decade, new figures suggest.

A survey found 70 per cent of shopworkers have suffered from verbal abuse
A survey found 70 per cent of shopworkers have suffered from verbal abuse

A survey, conducted by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and highlighted yesterday by the Labour Party, says there has been a 363 per cent increase in the number of violent or abusive episodes since 2011/12.

Data extracted from BRC Retail Crime Surveys showed that there were 51 incidents of violence of abuse experience for every 1,000 staff in 2015/16. That compared with 11 per 1,000 in 2011/12 – an increase of 363 per cent.

Trade union USDAW has campaigned on the issue of retail worker abuse, and previously revealed in a separate survey that 70 per cent of Scottish shop workers have suffered from verbal abuse. The latest figures were a matter of concern for Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, who in the New Year intends to introduce legislation which would offer additional protection to shop workers.

Mr Johnson said: “Nobody should have to deal with abuse of any kind in their place of work. Yet sadly these statistics show it is increasingly becoming just part of the job.

“It is clear that action must be taken to prevent the mistreatment of shop workers.

“That is why in the New Year I will be bringing forward plans for legislation to offer additional protection to shop workers.”

David Lonsdale, the director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Violent or abusive behaviour towards shop staff in Scotland is wholly and utterly unacceptable.

“It’s a growing problem despite retailers investing considerable time and resources in protecting and training colleagues.

“A large proportion of aggressive incidents are thought to be linked to acts of shoplifting, and abuse is particularly likely to occur when a confrontation takes place around an attempted theft.

“This is a serious issue and we want to see perpetrators dealt with firmly. Mr Johnson’s legislative proposal offers an opportunity to revisit the law and ensure it is fit for purpose and that the sentences available to the courts offer a sufficient deterrent.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Those who threaten or abuse shop workers can already be prosecuted using existing offences of assault, threatening and abusive behaviour and breach of the peace – and penalties are available all the way up to life imprisonment for the most serious, violent cases.

“We fully support our police, prosecutors and courts in dealing robustly with people who offend against such workers and will consider carefully any new proposals in this area.”