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'Report it to sort it' - more than half of attacks on shopworkers go unreported says Usdaw survey

Date: 14 November 2018 Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis is urging retail staff not to suffer in silence as the latest survey by Usdaw shows that 59% of those who experienced violence, threats or abuse at work did not report the incident to their employer. Worryingly 1 in 6 shopworkers who were physically attacked did not report the assault.
This is Respect for Shopworkers Week and Usdaw has released interim results of their Freedom From Fear Survey showing that during 2018: 6 in 10 shopworkers experienced verbal abuse, 37% were threatened by a customer, with over 230 assaulted every day. The survey continues and full results will be released in the new year.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “All too often shopworkers encounter violence, threats and abuse for simply doing their job. So it is very concerning that over half have never reported an incident, with one in six not reporting something as serious as an assault to their employer.
“Nearly half said they didn’t report attacks and abuse because they don’t feel it would make any difference, they don’t understand the reporting mechanism or it’s too complicated. Sometimes retail staff feel that it’s just a part of being in a frontline job, dealing with the public and the problems that sometimes throws up.
“My message to shopworkers is very clear, abuse is not a part of the job. We are talking to employers to ensure that reporting systems are easily accessible and will make a real difference to the protection. However it is really important that staff do tell their manager when they experience violence, threats or abuse. If they report it we can help sort it.
“This week our campaign events will highlight to shoppers the problems shopworkers can face, particularly during the festive season, a period when incidents of verbal abuse can increase dramatically. In the run up to Christmas, customers are stressed, stores are really busy and sometimes things can boil over. That's why we are asking shoppers to show respect for shopworkers and to 'keep your cool at Christmas'. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”
Voices from the frontline: As part of Usdaw’s survey of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, respondents have the opportunity to feed back their views on what store managers can do to improve safety, here are some examples:
  • “Training for staff on how to deal with abusive and violent customers.”
  • “Make it easier to ban aggressive people.”
  • “Make sure everyone understands the process and what to do.”
  • “Inform customers that abuse is not acceptable and they may have to leave if they don’t stop.”
  • “Time out and possible counselling if needed.”
  • “Maybe some training on what's acceptable and some strategies to diffuse situations.”
  • “Refuse service to rude/abusive customers.”
  • “Hire security or put a no tolerance banning policy in place - one incident and you are gone!”
  • “I feel that continuing to serve a customer that has sworn at us or been abusive is disrespectful.”
  • “Take all reports seriously.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
Respect for Shopworkers Week 2018 takes place on 12-18 November. It is an annual event where shopworkers talk to the public about the problems of violence threats and abuse, asking customers to ‘keep their cool’. Part of the campaign will be encouraging shopworkers not to take abuse as part of the job and report incidents to their manager.
Interim results of the Usdaw’s 2018 survey, based on 3,561 responses, show that in 2018 so far: 59.65% were verbally abused, 36.93% were threatened. 11.36% shopworkers had been assaulted during their career, with 230 assaults per day during 2018. 58.80% of those who have been attached or abused have never reported an incident. 16.88% who have been assaulted did not report it. The main reasons not to report incidents are: Won't make a difference 35.07%; don't know the procedure 9.18%; procedure too complicated 4.52%. The final results of the survey will be published in the new year.
For Usdaw press releases visit: www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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