The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is calling on the government to honour the commitment it made in the House of Commons to address the issues of rising violence and abuse against shop workers and “ensure that they have better protection under the law”.
The BRC has made the plea ahead of the second reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Lords today (15 September).
It has also highlighted how violence and abuse against retail workers is getting worse by the year with 455 incidents every day in 2019-20, a 7% rise on the previous year. Incidents have soared since the pandemic as staff have tried to ensure customers follow Covid-19 rules.
Last month, the new Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) Act 2021 came into force in Scotland after it was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament, meaning staff in Scotland are better protected than those in England and Wales.
The BRC is calling for the Government to pass legislation that would make assaulting or abusing a retail worker a specific offence, with tougher sentences for offenders. It said this “would act as a deterrent and ensure retail workers feel safer, and would increase visibility of incidents so that police forces can allocate appropriate resources and ensure they provide an adequate response”.
It comes after 55 MPs signed the BRC’s Shopworker Protection Pledge promising to support legislation to better protect retail workers.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “We need legislation in England and Wales to protect our hard-working retail colleagues. It makes no sense nor is it remotely fair that people who work in retail are better protected in Dundee than they are in Doncaster.
“The current laws simply do not go far enough. Most offenders go unpunished, while victims and their families are left traumatised. We cannot let another year to go by with rising crime statistics and a mounting pile of deplorable stories of violence and abuse in shops. The government needs to act, and deliver on its commitment to protect retail workers.”