New laws to protect shop staff from 'proof of age' abuse

New laws which would make it a specific offence to abuse or threaten shop staff who ask customers for "proof of age" have been backed by MSPs.

Staff who ask for "proof of age" for alcohol sales will be protected under new laws
Staff who ask for "proof of age" for alcohol sales will be protected under new laws

The "Protection of Workers Bill" has been passed at Stage 1 by Holyrood's Economy committee.

Staff who sell age restricted goods are deemed to have have a "special role in upholding the law, but the committee heard in evidence that this can sometimes trigger violence and abuse.

Committee convener Michelle Ballantyne said: "The abuse that retail workers face every day just for doing their jobs is completely unacceptable.

"Each incident is one too many and the Committee welcomes the bill’s aim to provide greater protection, especially where retail workers are enforcing age restrictions.

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"Abuse must be taken seriously and crimes must be reported to ensure that these matters are given the priority they deserve.”

The Bill applies to workers in shops, bars and restaurants and creates a new specific to assault, threaten or abuse them, as well as obstructing or hindering them. If the offence was committed because the worker was applying an age-restriction, such as asking for proof of age from someone trying to buy alcohol, this would count as an “aggravation” and could potentially make the offence more serious.

The bill must now pass two further stages at Holyrood before it becomes law.

There are concerns that shop workers do not always report these crimes, with many seeing it is a "part of their job" or believing that it will not be taken seriously by employers or the police.

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The Committee heard in evidence there needs to be greater awareness of the scale and seriousness of these crimes among the Scottish public.

The legislation has been pursued as a members bill at Holyrood by Labour's Edinburgh South MSP Daniel Johnson.

“This represents a clear step forward to protect retail workers," he said.

"I look forward to the Stage 1 debate and vote after recess and the remaining legislative hurdles in order to make this bill law.”

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