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Too much abuse of shopworkers goes unreported – Usdaw urges the Government to respond positively to today’s parliamentary debate

Date: 07 June 2021 The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has today reported on their survey of over 12,000 shopworkers, which shows that a third did not report an incident because they believed nothing would be done or it was ‘just part of the job’.
Retail trade union Usdaw is urging the Government to respond positively to their parliamentary petition that seeks to protect retail staff from violence, threats and abuse, which is being debated in Parliament today at 6.15pm.
The Home Affairs Committee survey found that two thirds of those who reported incidents suggested no help was given to them after receiving an initial response from their employer or the police. Half of those surveyed reported incidents to the police, of which only 12% led to an arrest. Only one in five shopworkers who reported incidents of abuse or violence were satisfied with how the police or their employer responded.
The findings were published ahead of today’s Westminster Hall debate on a petition launched by shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis, the petition attracted 104,000 signatures, is backed by major retailers and the industry’s leading trade bodies, with research by the Co-op showing its aims have public support as well.
Usdaw is now looking for the support of MPs and the Government to deliver on the aims of the petition with new legislation. This could be achieved by supporting a Labour amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Yvette Cooper MP, who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, said: “During the Covid crisis, we’ve seen an appalling and unacceptable increase in reported attacks and abuse against shopworkers. No-one should feel unsafe at their place of work and there are no circumstances where such behaviour should be tolerated.
“The sheer number of responses we have received shows just how widespread this problem is. In far too many cases retail workers don’t report incidents as they feel nothing will be done or that they’re expected to deal with such appalling incidents as part of their job. That’s simply not the case and it’s clear that action is needed to change this.
“The committee is currently assessing the wider evidence we’ve received. I hope the Government responds constructively to the serious issues we have identified.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We thank the Home Affairs Select Committee for their investigation into the growing problem of abuse of retail workers, which we gave evidence to. Their survey results lay bare the scale of the problem retail staff face and back up our concerns that it just is not taken serious enough. They demonstrate the need for a new protection of retail workers law, a specific offence that makes it clear that abuse is entirely unacceptable and will be dealt with in the strongest terms.
“We now urge MPs to support the aims of our petition and persuade the Government to back legislation to protect shopworkers. They have the perfect opportunity by accepting an amendment from Sarah Jones MP to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which we hope will be supported in the bill committee.
“Retail employers, leading retail bodies and the shopworkers’ trade union are jointly calling for legislation, so it is time for the Government and MPs to listen. In Scotland, MSPs voted through a new ground-breaking law to give shopworkers the protection they deserve. We are now looking for MPs to support key workers across the retail sector and help turn around the UK Government’s opposition.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
Sarah Jones MP: NC45 amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, “Offence of assaulting etc. retail worker” https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-02/0005/amend/police_rm_pbc_0524.pdf
Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK found that:
  • 88% experienced verbal abuse
  • 60% were threatened by a customer
  • 9% were assaulted
  • 79% of shopworkers say abuse was worse last year
The full report can be downloaded from: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFReport2020
House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/915/violence-and-abuse-towards-retailworkers/
Co-op respect for shopworkers survey: https://www.co-operative.coop/media/news-releases/respect-for-shopworkers-one-in-five-customers-admit-to-showing-aggression
66 retail leaders wrote to the Prime Minister: https://brc.org.uk/media/676908/pm-ceo-crime-letter-feb-2021.pdf
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers