zero tolerance

The retail sector has largely welcomed the government’s plan to tackle crime against shopworkers.

Announced by the Prime Minister, the measures include a plan to make assault on a shopworker a specific offence that carries sentences of up to six months.

Nisa managing director Peter Batt welcomed the change in law. “Nisa works with thousands of independent retailers, and we have long highlighted the growing number of assaults in retail, especially on independents, often working alone, late at night to serve their communities,” he said. “We will continue to monitor crime against independent retailers to help our retailers, and support the law enforcement agencies that ensure often vital retail services can safely offered to communities. Today’s announcement that the Government will legislate to create that standalone offence in England and Wales is a tremendous triumph for the Co-op and Nisa.”

Noel Robinson, joint managing director of Parfetts, also praised the announcement and urged a swift implementation. “We agree with the government that enough is enough and welcome the move to make assaulting retail workers a standalone criminal offence. Our retailers work hard to serve their communities and deserve to be safe while they do it. We’re calling for the government to fast-track this legislation.”

While the majority of the sector welcomed the measures, Retail Trust CEO Chris Brook-Carter warned that they may not go far enough to protect the sector.

“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,” he said.

“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.”