Majority of retail staff experienced abuse at work last year, study finds

Trade union calls on government to do more to protect workers as experts highlight HR’s role in ensuring appropriate training and embedding standards of behaviour.

Most staff working in the retail sector have been assaulted, abused or threatened at work during the last year, a new study has found.

Usdaw, the retail trade union, surveyed nearly 2,000 people working in retail over the past 12 months and found that 92 per cent had experienced verbal abuse. A further 70 per cent had been threatened by a customer, and 14 per cent had been physically assaulted.

Despite this, one in five victims said they have never reported an incident to their employer, including five per cent who had been assaulted.

Speaking about their experience, one retail worker said: “We get daily verbal abuse from people attempting to shoplift, people not following social distancing measures, intoxicated people and people who have been asked to provide proof of age or refused service for intoxication.”

Another reported a shoplifter tried to “head-butt” them, while another said they had a van driven at them.

Usdaw said it was “appalling” and a “disgrace” that people are abusing shop workers “at a time when we should all be working together to get through this national crisis”.

In response to the figures, Usdaw has launched its Freedom from Fear campaign, calling on the government to offer more protection to workers. The campaign coincides with a new protection of workers law which came into force in Scotland recently. 

Government action to protect shopworkers is needed. The new law was welcomed in Scotland but deeply disappointing that the UK government has continued to resist a similar measure in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Retail staff across the UK have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.

In June this year, ministers rejected calls for a new legislation to protect retail workers and other frontline staff, saying that the current legislation was enough.

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