Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, condemns the UK Government for voting against the creation of a law that would offer better protections for retail staff as violence, threats and abuse directed towards workers skyrockets since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Labour Party tabled amendments to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill that would create a specific offence of assaulting a retail worker with a sentence of up to 12 months, and a new offence for assaults committed as a direct result of workers enforcing statutory age restrictions. This would give greater protection to retail workers as they go about their jobs, particularly when enforcing statutory age restrictions on the sale of products such as alcohol and knives. Currently, a shop worker can be prosecuted for not enforcing the laws on age related sales, but have no specific protections for abuse they may encounter when doing so.
These amendments were voted down by the UK Government in Parliament on Monday evening, as they continue to refuse to support a specific law that would protect retail workers.
In the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) 2020 survey of shop workers, 88% of respondents had experienced verbal abuse, 60% had been threatened by a customer and 9% were assaulted. Shop workers being asked to enforce social distancing and face masks to keep shoppers safe has put them more at risk of experiencing abuse, with 79% of shop workers reporting that abuse was worse than in 2019.
Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, said:
“Every day, more than 400 retail workers face abuse just for doing their jobs. Nobody should face violence at work, which is why I am calling on the UK Government to think again and make a change to the law to secure stronger protections for shop workers, and introduce tougher penalties for those who assault or threaten them.
“It’s disgraceful that the Conservatives are refusing to support the amendment, when a simple stand-alone offence for assaulting a retail worker could encourage prosecutions and provide the deterrent effect many shop workers are desperate for.
“We need the UK Government to send out a clear message that violence against someone working to serve the public is not acceptable, and shop workers safety is being taken seriously.”