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Violence against shopworkers more than tripled during pandemic, new figures show

VIOLENCE and abuse against shopworkers more than tripled during the pandemic as social distancing and face mask restrictions were enforced, according to new figures.

Even though far fewer shops were open due to the closure of non-essential stores for large parts of the year, abuse levels still soared.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the number of incidents surged to 1,301 each day in the year to March 2021, from 455 per day a year earlier.

“These figures make particularly grim reading as they came at the height of the pandemic when the ‘hidden heroes’ of retail were working tirelessly to look after customers, keep shelves stocked and ensure orders were fulfilled,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of BRC.

“As our colleagues implemented Covid safety measures to keep the public safe, too many were met with hostility, abuse, threats and assault.”

The trade body said 125 of these daily incidents included violence. Only 4 per cent of incidents resulted in a prosecution, despite incidents of violence and abuse soaring.

It comes as shopworkers union Usdaw tweeted to remind members to report every incident and to “make sure all incidents are recorded.”

The union said: “Every employer should have a system for staff to report incidents and should regularly review them with your rep to make the workplace safer.”

Usdaw’s Freedom from Fear survey last year showed 90 per cent of staff had experienced verbal abuse, 64 per cent had been threatened by a customer and 12 per cent had been assaulted.

More than six in 10 workers said they were not confident that reporting these incidents would make a difference.

At their conference earlier this month, Usdaw delegates supported a call for legislation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make it a specific offence to abuse, threaten or assault a retail worker, in line with Scotland.



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