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Retail staff ‘abused or assaulted’ over 21 times a year, says Usdaw

An average shop worker is verbally abused, threatened or assaulted more than 21 times a year, according to a new report by trade union Usdaw.

It said while not all shopworkers “suffer to this extent”, some experience much higher levels of abuse, threats and violence, and interim results from Usdaw’s ‘Freedom from Fear’ survey of over 4,000 retail staff shows that this year, so far:

  • Around two-thirds of shop workers have experienced verbal abuse
  • 41% were threatened by a customer
  • Nearly 5% were assaulted, which amounts to around 400 assaults every day across all shopworkers

Usdaw’s annual ‘Respect for Shop Workers’ week, which runs from 11-17 November, is when the union’s representatives and members organise awareness events as part of the Freedom from Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent verbal abuse, threats and violent attacks at work.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “Violence, threats and abuse against workers continue to increase. The statistics are shocking and show that urgent action is required. Many UK workers are on the frontline of dealing with the public and that can mean they end up on the wrong side of a verbal or physical assault.

“We have consistently demonstrated the full extent of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers. Five months ago we and the retail employers responded to the Home Office ‘call for evidence’ and with one voice when we jointly called for action to tackle this growing problem.”

He added; “So we were disappointed to hear on the final day of Parliament that the Government is still analysing the evidence received, has not yet published their response and is still considering next steps.

“Our message is clear; abuse is not a part of the job. We continue to call for stiffer penalties for those who assault shopworkers and the introduction of a simple stand-alone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, courts and most importantly criminals.”

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