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Retail workers in all UK should be protected from violence and threats

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Scotland is “leading the way” when it comes to protecting retail workers from violence and threats while doing their jobs but “Westminster is dragging its feet”, according to a trade body.

Retail workers in Scotland will be given greater protections after MSPs voted in favour of a bill to make it an offence to assault or abuse shop workers.

Introduced by Daniel Johnson MSP, The Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill will make it a criminal offence to assault, threaten, abuse, obstruct or hinder retail workers, particularly where they are providing goods and services that are age restricted.

As an example, if an offence was committed because the worker asked for proof of age from someone to buy alcohol, this would count as an ‘aggravation’ which could potentially make the offence more serious.

Johnson said retail workers often face violence and threats while doing their jobs which is “wrong”, and a new law could help tackle this problem. It also means workers will be more likely to report problems to the police and offenders will be punished.

The bill went through stage three yesterday with MSPs voting for the bill to become an act of law.

‘Why can’t this legislation be replicated in the rest of the UK?’

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “We welcome the news that Scottish Parliament has taken decisive action to protect their retail workers through Daniel Johnson’s Shopworker Protection bill. Scotland has led the way in giving retail workers the legal protection and recognition they deserve, and they have sent a clear message that the rise in abuse and violence must end.”

Dickinson added: “Retail colleagues will be protected in Dumfries, but not in Carlisle – why can’t this legislation be replicated in the rest of the UK? Shopworkers have suffered for too long – our Crime Survey found that there are over 400 incidents of violence or abuse against colleagues every day, and triggers often include implementing government-mandated safety measures.

“Despite retailers spending record amounts on crime prevention, the situation is only getting worse. Some of these victims are the people who have been on the frontline since the start of the pandemic and have been hailed heroes for the work they have done.

“Yet, they continue to face unacceptable levels of abuse and government has yet to respond positively to our pleas for attacking shopworkers to become a specific offence. Westminster must stop dragging its feet and take the necessary action to protect retail colleagues from harm.”