COVID-19 is a bigger flashpoint for abuse of shopworkers than shoplifting and age ID, Usdaw survey finds

Retail trade union Usdaw has found through a survey of over 2,000 shop workers that enforcing social distancing measures and the wearing of face coverings are now the biggest triggers for abuse of shopworkers. In past years similar surveys have consistently found that theft from shops and age identification have been the major flashpoints.

In response to continued growing assaults, threats and abuse against shop workers and the doubling of incidents during the coronavirus emergency, Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis launched a parliamentary petition calling on the Government to legislate to protect shop workers, which now has over 60,000 signatures.

The survey of 2,232 shop workers was conducted online over the last fortnight and asked the question: ‘What were the main triggers for abuse during the Coronavirus emergency?’ They were able to identify more than one issue and responded:

  • Enforcing social distancing – 68%
  • Queueing to get in store – 50%
  • Lack of stock – 46%
  • Face Coverings – 42%
  • Limiting sales – 41%
  • Shoplifting – 25%
  • Age restricted sales – 17%

Last year shopworkers told Usdaw that the highest ranking flashpoints were shoplifting (30%) and age restricted sales (29%), which had consistently been the case for many years of surveying.

This Friday (25 September 2020) the Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill, promoted by Alex Norris MP (Labour/Co-op, Nottingham North) is timetabled for its second reading in the House of Commons.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “Yet another Usdaw survey shows that some people have responded to an appalling national pandemic, which has severely impacted everyone’s lives, by abusing shopworkers. At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a disgrace that staff working to keep food on the shelves and the shop safe for customers, are being abused.

“Action to protect shop workers is needed and that is why we have launched a petition, which now has over 60,000 signatures. We were deeply disappointed by the Government’s response to the petition, offering little more than sympathy. This is a hugely important issue for our members and their local communities, with incidents of abuse doubling during the COVID-19 crisis. Shopworkers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough! Abuse should never be just a part of the job.

“I urge the Government to listen to the voices of shop workers and legislate for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. If they want to turn their words of sympathy into action, they have the opportunity to support the Bill proposed by Alex Norris MP and help it onto the statute book.

“We need a simple standalone offence that is widely recognised and understood by the public, police, CPS, the judiciary and most importantly criminals. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”