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TRUST ISSUES: Amidst a rise in abuse, retail employers have a vital role to play in creating safer and happier workplaces

Chris Brook Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust One of the many problems caused by the pandemic is the rapid increase in unacceptable levels of… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

TRUST ISSUES: Amidst a rise in abuse, retail employers have a vital role to play in creating safer and happier workplaces

Chris Brook Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust

One of the many problems caused by the pandemic is the rapid increase in unacceptable levels of physical and verbal abuse in shops and businesses up and down the UK

Home Office data released last month found that half of retail businesses saw a rise in levels of violence and assault between April 2020 and March 2021, while research by legal firm Foot Anstey from the end of last year shows that nearly two thirds of shopworkers have experienced offensive behaviour like this since the start of the pandemic.

And at the Retail Trust, we’ve seen a surge in calls to our helpline over the last two years as more and more people turn to us  because of the abuse they are receiving in stores and call centres.

While this kind of antisocial behaviour has sadly been on the rise since long before the pandemic, Covid-19 certainly intensified the issue with so many staff reporting terrible incidents of physical or verbal abuse as a result of asking people to wear a mask or stick to social distancing measures.

Yet only 15% of retailers we spoke to for the Retail Trust’s 2021 Health of Retail report last year said they had done anything to raise awareness or implement training on how to handle difficult conversations or conflict with members of the public. Many admitted it had been something discussed but never actioned.

This is a significant and growing problem which has intensified existing pressures on retail workers and contributed to waning levels of job satisfaction across the sector. It is so important that retail employers put in place the right measures to protect our colleagues on the frontline who continue to face the threat of violence and abuse at work.

For example, ensuring staff feel supported by their managers in challenging situations, putting in place training for dealing with difficult customers and how to manage harassment, making sure the right signage and security is in place, and recording and reviewing any complaints of harassment to identify patterns and improve how they are managed.

That’s why the Retail Trust has now joined forces with Foot Anstey to launch a first in its kind certification for the retail industry that has been designed to create safer working environments for staff and give retail workers some of the clarity and reassurance they deserve by showing exactly what their employers are doing to protect them.

The Retailers Against Harassment Certification will recognise and showcase the businesses that are taking the appropriate steps to protect their staff from abuse and harassment. Participating employers will work with Foot Anstey and the Retail Trust to review and improve the measures they have in place to protect their workers and deal with any complaints of harassment. We will audit each retailer’s approach, giving credit when good work is already in place and supporting businesses where improvements can be made.

Teams will benefit from our joint expertise on how best to protect staff and prevent issues before they occur. And the recognised certification can then be used as powerful evidence of a retailer’s commitment to protecting its people, helping to attract and retain employees at a time when job vacancy rates are at an all-time high.

We have so much to thank retail workers for, particularly over the last couple of years when they have worked hard to keep stores running, deliver essential services and implement the correct safety measures. The very least they now deserve is the ability to carry out their jobs without fear of being abused or assaulted.

To find out more about the Retailers Against Harassment Certification visit: retailtrust.org.uk/harassment-prevention. You can also call our 24-hour helpline on 0808 801 0808 to speak to one of our trained advisors for in the moment support, or visit retailtrust.org.uk.

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