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Shopworkers need better laws to protect them, campaigners warn

Research by Co-op suggests 1 in 5 customers has admitted to being abusive towards a shop worker over the past eight months

SHOPWORKERS need better legislation to protect them from attacks, campaigners said today after the Co-op revealed high levels of abuse against its staff during the pandemic.

The company’s research suggests that one in five customers has admitted being aggressive or abusive towards a shop worker over the past eight months, even though most people feel that retail staff have provided an essential service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Co-op said that one in four of its frontline shop workers has been on the receiving end of violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour, with a 36 per cent increase in incidents so far this year compared to the same period in 2019. 

This amounts to an average of about 730 a day.

Almost a quarter of aggressive customers said that frustrations caused by panic-buying had caused them to lash out at store staff.

Labour MP Alex Norris, whose Assaults on Retail Workers Bill is due to get its second reading in Parliament next year, said: “During the Covid-19 outbreak we have seen an increased prevalence of abuse and violence towards shop workers, but these unacceptable acts are something that retail employees have to contend with regularly, simply for doing their jobs.

“I believe if we ask employees to enforce the law, they should be better protected. 

“Covid-19 has stopped my important Bill to protect these workers, but the government can act anyway and should do.”

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said that the union’s own research revealed that three-quarters of retail staff felt that abuse, threats and assaults had worsened during the pandemic.

“The public, shop workers and retail employers are calling on government to legislate for stiffer penalties for those who assault the shop workers,” he said.

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