Usdaw calls for action as violence and abuse towards retail staff surges

Retail trade union Usdaw is calling for more action to ensure that abuse, threats, and violence against shopworkers is taken seriously after a survey shows that incidents are on the rise.

New figures from The Institute of Customer Service found that 44% of frontline service staff have experienced hostility from customers in the past six months, a rise from 35% in February.

It comes as new powers come into force that will allow for stiffer penalties for those who attack and abuse shopworkers. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 was given royal assent in April.

“This survey is further confirmation of the scale of the problem retail staff face daily,” said Usdaw general secretary, Paddy Lillis.

“Our latest research found that nine in 10 retail workers suffered abuse from customers last year, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Particularly concerning was the one-third increase in assaults.”

READ MORE: 1 in 4 retail workers are skipping meals, warns Usdaw

He continued: “The government has taken a step in the right direction by making the assault a public-facing worker a statutory aggravating factor when sentencing. However, that relies on the police responding to incidents, the CPS prosecuting the case and a guilty verdict.

Lillis added that “too many incidents do not get through to sentencing”, which is a “big part” of why nearly two-thirds of shopworkers do not feel confident when reporting incidents.

“Faced with such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse, and with shopworkers’ almost complete lack of confidence in the ability of the system to give them the protection they need, much more needs to be done.

“The government must provide the coordination needed to ensure that retail employers, police and the courts work together to make stores safe places for our members to work and for customers to shop.”

This news comes as the Co-op launches its roll out of colleague body cams in an attempt to combat crime and keep staff and customers safe.

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