Law to stop abuse against shop staff

Paddy Lillis – general secretary, Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers), writes:

It has been a terrible time for our members, with almost 90pc of shop workers suffering abuse, two thirds threatened and nearly one in 10 assaulted.

Retail workers, their friends, family and loved ones are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be just a part of the job.

Despite overwhelming evidence, there is no specific law to protect shop workers, which is backed by many retailers.

Usdaw is looking for a simple stand-alone offence that is easily understood, not just by the legal profession, but by the criminals who are assaulting, threatening and terrifying shop workers.

A separate offence for assaulting a retail worker would encourage prosecutions and provide the deterrent effect that our members are desperately looking for.

A clear message that violence against someone working to serve the public is not acceptable.

When retail employers, leading retail bodies and the shop workers’ trade union jointly call for legislation, 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.

We must protect shop workers

Barking and Dagenham Post: Shops along The Heathway, Dagenham. Picture: Melissa PageShops along The Heathway, Dagenham. Picture: Melissa Page (Image: Archant)

Unmesh Desai, Labour’s London Assembly Policing and Crime spokesperson, writes:

I’m disgusted to see the level of attacks on workers and we will not stand for this.

Retail workers have been on the frontline of the pandemic, putting themselves at risk throughout to keep colleagues and customers safe by enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing in shops. This increase in verbal abuse and physical violence over the last five years, which has been spiking during the pandemic, is shameful.

We simply cannot allow perpetrators to feel like they can away with attacks on retail staff, we need to ensure they face justice.

Back in November, my motion backing Usdaw’s (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) calls for the government to make attacks on shop workers a specific offence was passed by the London Assembly and this move has since been backed by the mayor.

The fact that this key recommendation has been taken forward by the Home Affairs Select Committee marks an encouraging stride forward for the rights of retail workers. Now we need the government to put it into legislation.