25 May 2024, 17:48
By Furniture News Apr 10, 2024

Assaulting a retail worker now a standalone offence

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and its members have welcomed the Government’s introduction of a standalone offence for assaulting a retail worker.

For over five years the BRC, along with retailers, other trade associations and unions, have campaigned for a standalone offence for a retail worker, to create transparency about the scale of the issue and to help police to allocate resources to deal with it.

Responding to the announcement, Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, says: “After relentless campaigning for a specific offence for assaulting retail workers, the voices of the three million people working in retail have finally been heard.

“The impact of retail violence has steadily worsened, with people facing racial abuse, sexual harassment, threatening behaviour, physical assault and threats with weapons, often linked to organised crime. The BRC 2024 Annual Crime Survey showed record levels of violence and abuse, with incidents soaring to over 1300 per day last year, compared to 870 the year before.

“Victims are ordinary hard-working people – teenagers taking on their first job, carers looking for part-time work, parents working around childcare.

“This announcement sends a clear message that this abusive behaviour will not be tolerated. It will improve the police response, which has historically been poor, as police will now have the necessary data to understand the scale of the problem and allocate sufficient resource to address this issue.

“Retailers are playing their part, spending over £1b last year on crime prevention measures. Government has taken action, and it is vital that the police use this new legislation to step up their response to incidents. Together, we must stamp out this scourge in crime that has been sweeping the nation and ensure retail workers are given the vital protections they deserve.”

Chris Brook-Carter, CEO of industry charity Retail Trust, comments: "Retail Trust has been calling for Government to make assaults on shop workers a standalone criminal offence for some time (like it is in Scotland). This will give police more powers to prosecute, so we welcome today’s news that a change in the law is coming.

"Our data shows almost half of retail workers feel unsafe at work, with 90% having experienced physical or verbal abuse from customers. Shockingly, 41% of retail workers say this happens weekly, which is up from 34% previously, so today’s news is certainly a step in the right direction.

"Retail Trust’s purpose is to provide hope, health and happiness for everyone in retail. So, the big question we are left with today is, is this enough? And the simple answer is, on its own, probably not, which is why there needs to be a cross-industry and society push to face into this worrying trend. We still encourage retail workers experiencing abuse to report it to their managers. Retailers themselves need to ensure they have the right support for their colleagues and systems and policies in place to record and report to the police. And our police forces must prioritise dealing with these crimes.

"Sadly, currently, one in four colleagues don’t report incidents. More than two thirds said they don’t think it will help, nearly a quarter said they had been put off by a previously unhelpful response from the police and over a quarter said they didn’t know how to respond to or report abusive incidents.

"And, finally, anyone in retail who needs support can get in touch with Retail Trust on 0808 801 0808."

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