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British Retail Consortium survey exposes the extent of abuse against retail staff – Usdaw calls for retail crime to be taken seriously

Date: 31 May 2022 Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw is calling for action to ensure that all incidents of abuse, threats and violence against retail workers are taken seriously.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Annual Retail Crime Survey, released today, shows that violence and abuse against shopworkers more than tripled over the pandemic, in part as a result of measures such as social distancing and face mask restrictions.

Abuse levels soared despite far fewer shops being open with the closure of non-essential stores for large parts of the year.

The British Retail Consortium said the number of incidents surged to 1,301 each day in the year to March 2021, from 455 per day a year earlier.

Paddy Lillis Usdaw General Secretary says: This BRC survey is further confirmation of the scale of the problem retail staff face on a daily basis and back up findings in Usdaw’s latest research. Our research found that 9 in 10 retail workers suffered abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. Particularly concerning was the one-third increase in assaults, up from 9% in 2020 to 12% in 2021. So, it is extremely worrying that nearly two-thirds said they were not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference.

“As the cost of living crisis bites things could get worse. We know from previous experience that when things get tough, shoplifting goes up, which is a concern for our members as it can be a further trigger for violence and abuse. 

"Although the situation is bleak, there are some early signs that our work with retail employers may be starting to make a difference. The Protection of Workers Act came into force in Scotland in August 2021. Figures released earlier this month show that 1,600 cases of abuse have been reported to the police. While we still do not have similar laws for England, Wales or Northern Ireland, from August, assaulting a public serving worker will become statutory aggravating factor when sentencing.
“However, faced with such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse, and with shopworkers’ almost complete lack of confidence in the ability of the system to give them the protection they need, much more needs to be done. The Government must provide the co-ordination needed to ensure that retail employers, police and the courts work together to make stores safe places for our members to work and for customers to shop.”
Notes for editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.

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