Tesco staff are to be offered body cameras in an effort to help protect them against verbal and physical abuse from customers.
In a letter to the Mail on Sunday, Tesco CEO Ken Murphy highlighted the level of crime facing retail staff, urging action to be taken to protect them.
“As retailers, we work hard to make sure our stores are warm, welcoming and safe –not just for customers, but for the millions of people who stock the shelves, walk the floor and serve the tills. Like everyone, they deserve to be safe at work,” he said. “But over the last couple of years, these unsung heroes are being made to feel less safe by the actions of some people: customers who will be verbally and physically abusive, or who will threaten and attack them when challenged.
“These people are small in number but have a disproportionate impact. And the number of these incidents is increasing.”
Citing British Retail Consortium research that found that incidents of violence and abuse against retail workers almost doubled from more than 450 per day in 2019-20 to more than 850 last year, Murphy revealed that physical assaults at Tesco stores are up by a third on this time last year.
He called for more collaboration to protect shop staff and for the judicial system to make full use of the tools at their disposal.
“We need better links between police forces and businesses to prevent crime in the first place. Gangs take advantage of the fact we do not share enough information. We’ll only be able to stop these thugs if we work together.
“After a long campaign by retailers and the union Usdaw, last year the Government made attacking shop workers an aggravating factor in convictions – meaning offenders should get longer sentences. Judges should make use of this power.
“But we need to go further, as in Scotland, and make abuse or violence towards retail workers an offence in itself.
“Second, when someone is picked up for committing a crime in a store, the business should have a right to know how the case is proceeding – which does not happen at the moment. This would help us to spot patterns and provide reassurance that justice is being done.
Murphy outlined the investment by Tesco to tackle the issue. “We’re doing our bit at Tesco – investing £44 million over the last four years on security measures such as door access systems, protection screens and digital radios.
“We’ve also rolled out body-worn cameras for colleagues that need them in order to deter offenders, he added. “Money spent on making sure people are safe at work is always well spent, but it should not have to be like this.”