Half of shop workers think reporting abuse at work would not make a difference, poll finds

Research reveals most retail staff have been verbally assaulted in the last year, with two-thirds having been threatened by a customer

Half of shop workers think that reporting abuse they experience at work would not make a difference, a poll from Usdaw has found.

New research from the retail trade union found that while nine in 10 shop workers (89 per cent) have experienced verbal abuse, 46 per cent believed that reporting the abuse would not make a difference.

The poll of 3,500 retail staff also found that 64 per cent of shop workers had been threatened by a customer in the last year, while 11 per cent stated they had been assaulted while at work in the last 12 months.

The findings have led to calls for more to be done to protect retail staff, with Usdaw calling for legislative changes introduced in Scottish shops this year to be rolled out across the UK.

Since August this year, it has been a specific offence in Scotland to threaten, abuse or assault a shop worker, with offenders liable to a fine or imprisonment.

“Retail staff across the UK have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected. They deserve the protection of the law,” said Paddy Lillis, general secretary of Usdaw.

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Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, also felt that the current laws did not go far enough to protect shop workers. “Our own research shows that there are over 450 incidents of violence and abuse perpetrated against shop staff every single day,” she said.

“Our colleagues work incredibly hard, day in, day out, to keep shelves stocked, goods delivered and our needs met… we all have a part to play in stamping out this scourge of violence.”

Some respondents to Usdaw’s survey answered that they had experienced abuse over Covid rules and face masks, while others said they had been sworn at because of lack of stock in store.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, advocated for “tougher sentences for those who attack shop workers, and a commitment from local forces to take these incidents seriously”.

Jo Whitfield, CEO of Co-op Food, warned that abuse did not just have a physical impact on shop workers, but that it also impacted “the mental wellbeing of front-line shop workers who face this behaviour on a daily basis”.

“They should be able to carry out their valued role in local community life free from fear,” she said.