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Scottish sale of fireworks ban to under-18s welcomed - Usdaw urges support for shopworkers who have to enforce it

Date: 07 October 2022 Retail trade union Usdaw welcomes new legislation to improve public safety by banning the supply of fireworks to under-18s in Scotland, which is set to come into force on 10 October. However, the union urges support for shopworkers who have to enforce the law, with age-restricted sales accounting for nearly one-fifth of incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers.
The Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021, promoted by Daniel Johnson MSP (Labour, Edinburgh Southern) provides a new specific offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a shopworker and a harsher sentence if they were enforcing a statutory age restriction, resulting in a fine with penalties escalating to a prison sentence. The legislation is a direct result of Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign working with Scottish politicians, employers and other organisations.
Tracy Gilbert – Usdaw regional officer for Scotland says: “Restricting the sale of fireworks to over 18s is a welcome step forward for public safety. We have all been horrified by reports of emergency service workers being attacked by people using fireworks as a weapon and there is no doubt that in the wrong hands they are very dangerous.
“Age restricted sales are a real minefield for our members. If they make a mistake they are likely to be prosecuted and fined. If they fail to ask for age identification from somebody who looks under-25, they run the risk of being disciplined for not following company policy and for the sale of alcohol that is a legal requirement here in Scotland.
“Asking for age identification can lead to abuse from frustrated and angry customers and a refusal of a sale can be a real flashpoint. Many of our members feel they are damned if they ask for ID and damned if they don't. Scottish shopworkers deserve far more respect than they receive. Our surveying shows that 9 in 10 are suffering abuse from customers, two-thirds were threatened and 12% assaulted.
“Last year Daniel Johnson MSP successfully brought in ground-breaking protection of workers legislation; providing stiffer sentences for those who abuse or assault shopworkers, particularly if they are enforcing an age restriction. However, we still need employers to make it easier for staff to report attacks and abuse, highlight the legislation to improve confidence, backed up with training, and promote the importance of reporting all incidents. At the same time, we need significant investment in the justice system to ensure victims get the justice they deserve.
“Violence and abuse are not an acceptable part of the job and too many shopworkers suffer all too often. We still need better co-ordination to ensure that retail employers, police and the courts work together to make stores safer and give staff the support and confidence they need, particularly when they are on the frontline of enforcing the law.”
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.
Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2021/6
Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear Campaign seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against workers by engaging the public, shopworkers and the Government. www.usdaw.org.uk/Campaigns/Freedom-From-Fear
Usdaw annual survey of nearly 3,500 UK retail staff, which show that in the last twelve months: 90% have experienced verbal abuse, 64% were threatened by a customer, 12% were assaulted and 61% said they were not confident that reporting abuse, threats and violence will make a difference. Full results: www.usdaw.org.uk/FFFsurvey2021
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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