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05 Feb 2021 | 11:28

Retailers demand legislation to protect shopworkers from abuse - BRC

(Sharecast News) - Chief executive officers from over 65 companies wrote to the Prime Minister calling for greater legal protection for shopworkers in England and Wales after an increase of verbal abuse and violence due to Covid safety measures.

According to the British Retail Consortium, CEOs and industry bodies were concerned about the abuse towards retail workers and called for tougher sentences for those who attack the employees.

In the letter to the Prime Minister, they called for the government "to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves and improve protection for our employees by creating a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker."

The letter came in response to a survey conducted by the BRC, which found that of "essential" retailers, who were allowed to remain open, 100% of respondents had seen an increase in verbal abuse.

Two thirds of respondents reported an increase in the number of incidents of physical violence against staff during the current lockdown and all retailers who reported a rise in verbal or violent attacks said that the enforcement of Covid restrictions was the key factor.

One leading retailer reported 990 incidents of violence or abuse in the first week after face coverings became compulsory in shops.

Helen Dickinson OBE, the Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium said: "The BRC has repeatedly called on the Government to take action and protect our colleagues from harm. Every day over 400 retail staff are attacked, threatened, or abused in their place of work. Over 150,000 in 2019, and these numbers have been rising during the pandemic. Those attacked are our friends, our family, our colleagues. This cannot go on.

"The recent surge in violence should serve as a wake-up call for Government. Retail workers are playing a vital role during the biggest public health crisis of our time - ensuring everyone has access to the items they need and keeping stores safe for customers and colleagues. And, at what cost? They have been coughed at, spat on, racially abused, threatened with weapons, the list goes on. No one should go to work fearing for their safety, and we hope the Prime Minister will play his part by introducing a new offence for abusing, threatening and assaulting a retail worker."
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