Cases of abuse and violence against retail staff triples during pandemic, report finds
Cases of abuse and violence against shopworkers tripled during the pandemic, according to the latest Crime Survey from the BRC.
Store staff reported 1,301 incidents of abuse and violent crime each day between March 2020 and March 2021, up from 455 incidents pre-pandemic.
The jump comes despite non-essential stores being closed for much of the year.
For every 1,000 employees there were 155 incidents, which means that more than 15% of the retail workforce suffered some form of abuse. Each day there were 21 incidents of violence that led to an injury.
In fact, 44 incidents per 1,000 shopworkers were attributed to spitting, coughing, social distancing and mask-wearing.
Only 4% of incidents against shopworkers resulted in a prosecution, the BRC survey found. This was a smaller proportion than the 6% prosecuted the year before.
The BRC said three in five respondents to its Crime Survey described the police response to incidents as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
Following lobbying from the BRC, The Retail Trust and prominent retailers including The Co-op, the government added an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill earlier this year, which will compel courts to treat crimes committed against those performing a public service – including retail workers – as aggravated.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “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.”
“It is shocking that this huge rise in incidents took place in a smaller pool of stores and other locations as much of the industry was in lockdown. As our colleagues implemented Covid safety measures to keep the public safe, too many were met with hostility, abuse, threats, and assault.”
Dickinson added: “Violence must never be a part of the job. Those retail colleagues affected are our parents, our partners, and our children, and they have suffered needlessly, just for doing their job. They can bear the emotional scars and carry the trauma for the rest of their lives.
“It is vital that the amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill helps to deter perpetrators, but this will require the police to take action and improve their response to incidents.”
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