Staff in shops could face an increase in abuse and violence in stores once restrictions are eased, according to the boss of the retail industry’s trade body.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the government must provide clear guidance to the sector over plans to end the legal requirement to wear masks in stores to avoid confrontations.
She added that retailers were expected to keep hand sanitiser and screens in stores to protect staff.
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“Our primary concern is that government messaging is clear about what is regulation and what is advisory so that people understand what’s expected of them, and that people are tolerant and allow others to make their own personal choices,” she said.
“There has been a big rise in violence and abuse against retail workers during the pandemic and colleagues cannot be put in the firing line because of this change in policy.”
Dickinson added: “Retailers will have many people in their stores who want to continue wearing masks, and many who don’t, and will have to accommodate everyone.”
Her comments come as several retailers weigh up whether to continue asking customers to wear masks in stores beyond the July 19 date when the government is expected to relax the vast majority of Covid-19 restrictions.
This comes as Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said earlier this week that he would consult with staff but suggested the decision on masks would be one of “personal choice”.
Whereas, Aldi and Morrisons are also reportedly among the retails that have requested more detailed guidance.
Meanwhile, Tesco is understood to be currently undertaking an internal review into its mask-wearing policy following the government update earlier this week.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government was planning to halt the legal requirement regarding face coverings.
Despite this, he added he would wear a face covering in crowded places and as a matter of courtesy.
Other ministers have subsequently said they would be “carrying” masks and would wear them in certain circumstances.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty also said he would continue wearing a mask “in any situation that was indoors and was crowded, or indoors and in close proximity to other people”.
The BRC’s warning comes as retailers and other businesses are concerned that plans to keep self-isolation rules in place until August would also have an impact on workers who would be forced to stay home.
“We are already seeing a serious impact on retail operations as a result of staff having to self-isolate and this will only get worse right across the economy, as cases are already rising fast and the final restrictions are eased,” Dickinson concluded.
with PA Wires