Abuse against retail staff surges amid cost of living stress

Abuse and violence against retail staff has increased by a quarter in the last six months due to the customer pressures from the cost of living crisis.

According to the trade body Institute of Customer Service (ICS), around 44% of frontline retail staff have experienced hostility from customers in the last six months.

The figures indicate hostility has been up by a quarter compared to 35% in February.

READ MORE: Co-op announced £1m investment in crime prevention measures

As of 38 June, the amendment to the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act which specifically criminalised abuse against shop workers – has come into force.

The policy change, which was given royal assent in April, was brought to attention after a surge of attacks against shop workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I worry that UK businesses are becoming trapped in a catch-22 situation, with tensions boiling over into abuse that triggers staff absences leading to further frustration,” ICS CEO Jo Causon said.

“We must break this cycle, by acting together as a society to offer our support to hard-pressed, frontline workers.”

Tensions are believed to be resurfacing due to the stress of the cost of living crisis, as 33% of workers who experienced hostility cited higher levels of anxiety among shoppers.

ICS research, which conducted a poll including 1,300 front facing staff also revealed 25% of workers said the hostility was specifically linked to price increases.

Causon added: “As a nation, we find ourselves at the mercy of stock and staff shortages related to global and domestic issues. These issues aren’t going away, and so price rises and inflation will be on the cards for many months yet.”

“To prepare for this, I urge employers to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to hostility, ensuring their employees are trained to handle difficult situations when they arise.”

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