Landmark retailer protection law comes into force in Scotland

Retail workers in Scotland are now better protected as the new Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) Act 2021 has come into force today (24 August).

The law makes assaulting or abusing retail staff a standalone offence, with tougher sentences for perpetrators.

Paul Gerrard, Co-op’s Director of Campaigns and Public Affairs, said: “We applaud the new legislation in Scotland. Co-op has long supported the new bill; it sends a loud and clear message that criminal behaviour – violence and abuse against shopworkers – will not be tolerated.”

Retail trade union Usdaw is now urging shopworkers to report incidents to ensure the legislation can have an effect on ever-increasing incidents.

Tracy Gilbert, Usdaw’s Scottish Regional Secretary, said: “For this new legislation to have a real impact, we need to make sure staff report incidents of violence, threats or abuse to their manager. We are aware that some retail workers may feel it won’t make a difference, but my message to shopworkers is absolutely clear: report it to sort it.

“We are working with the Scottish government, police and retailers to promote the new law. We want criminals to understand that assaulting and abusing shopworkers is unacceptable and will land them with a stiffer sentence. Our hope is that this new legislation will result in retail staff getting the respect they deserve.”

Usdaw has launched a Freedom from Fear summer campaign week from 22-29 August, which highlights the violence, threats and abuse retail workers experience every day, with shocking statistics from their annual survey. Preliminary results from nearly 2,000 retail staff across the UK show that in the last twelve months: 92% have experienced verbal abuse, 70% were threatened by a customer, 14% were assaulted, and one in five victims have never reported an incident to their employer.

General Secretary Paddy Lillis added: “It has been a terrible year for our members, with over 90% of shopworkers suffering abuse, more than two-thirds threatened and one in seven assaulted. We are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be part of the job. We continue to campaign for the UK government to follow MSPs’ lead by extending similar protections to retail staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 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.”