Government spurns shopworker protection legislation

Houses of Parliament

The UK Government has again rejected a specific new law to protect shopworkers from assault.

Responding to questions on 14 December from Labour MP Daniel Zeichner and Shadow Home Affairs Minister Bambos Charalambous, Minister of State for Crime and Policing Kit Malthouse told the House of Commons that the Government didn’t “yet” see a case for a specific offence of assaulting a shopworker.

The Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill, promoted by Alex Norris MP, was timetabled for its second reading in the House of Commons in September. However, the Government objected to it progressing and the Bill is now delayed until 8 January 2021.

More than 20 major British retailers and the sector’s leading industry bodies wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to provide effective legal protection for shopworkers in the face of increasing levels of abuse and violence and in support of the Bill proposed by Norris.

The situation in Westminster sits in stark contrast to developments in the Scottish Parliament; Daniel Johnson MSP’s proposed Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) faces a final Stage 3 vote in the new year before it can be made law.

Shopworkers’ trade union leader Paddy Lillis launched a UK parliamentary petition to legislate to protect shopworkers, which now has over 90,000 signatures.

Lillis commented: “We continue to be disappointed by the Government’s response to our petition, offering little more than sympathy. Their objection to the Bill promoted by Alex Norris MP shows that we have to secure the 100,000 signatures needed to get the issue debated on the floor of the House of Commons.

“I urge the Government to listen to the voices of shopworkers and retailers by legislating for stiffer penalties for those who assault workers. Our members working in retail need Ministers to turn their words of sympathy into action by supporting the Bill to protect shopworkers and help it onto the Statute Book.

“When retailers and the trade union for shop workers jointly call for action, it is time for the Government to listen to our concerns and deliver much needed protection for staff. Abuse must never be just a part of the job.”

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