A retail industry coalition has written to chair of the Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper MP urging an inquiry into violence and abuse against staff.

The coalition, which includes British Retail Consortium (BRC), Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), workers union USDAW and National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NRFN), is demanding action following disappointment over the government’s failure to consider changing legislation when it comes to attacks on shop workers following a petition with over 65,000 signatures and an objection to a protection of workers bill, promoted by Alex Norris MP.

The joint letter to Yvette Cooper highlighted how assaults and abuse against retail workers were at an all-time high before the coronavirus and have worsened since then.

It cited numerous reports including the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) 2020 Crime Survey which showed that every day, over 400 retail workers faced a torrent of violence and abuse in the workplace; ACS’s 2020 Crime Report found that there were over 50,000 violent incidents in local shops, and Usdaw’s work that highlights that, on average, a shopworker is abused, threatened, or assaulted 21 times a year.

The letter said: “These incidents are often the result of challenging shoplifters, enforcing age restricted sales and most recently, implementing social distancing measures. In some cases, our colleagues are threatened and attacked with weapons such as knives and syringes and since covid have even had people cough and spit at them. These incidents are not victimless crimes and have a serious impact, not only on the people running businesses and working in shops who experience physical injuries and psychological trauma, but also on the families they go home to and the communities they serve.”

It also expressed disappointment at the lack of action by the government on the USDAW petition.

“Retail workers have been described by the Government as Hidden Heroes and have been praised for their hard work to keep the nation fed and supplied with goods needed. We were therefore disappointed to see the Home Office reject our call for a standalone offence for assaults against retail workers in their response to the Call for Evidence. Ultimately, a change in the law would provide shopworkers with better protections and would send a strong and clear message that the Government and criminal justice system is on their side and will not tolerate incidents of abuse or violence.

“We therefore write to you as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee to ask if the Committee would consider holding an inquiry which investigates this growing problem of violence and abuse against retail workers and the measures the Government should be taking to address it. The inquiry might also focus on the Government’s response to the Call for Evidence on violence and abuse toward shop staff, which we feel does not go far enough to keep our colleagues safe and protected.”