Public backs legal protection for shopworkers

Houses of Parliament

A new poll has revealed that 85% of UK adults surveyed agree that “the government owes a duty of care to shopworkers who enforce important laws restricting the sale of certain items like alcohol, acid and knives”.

Over four in 10 (41%) of respondents also thought – when presented with four options – the best way to protect shopworkers is “a tough new law to increase criminal sentences for anyone convicted of using threats or violence against a shopworker”.

The poll of 1,095 people was conducted by the Co-operative Party, and the results came prior to two debates in Parliament highlighting assaults and abuse directed at shopworkers.

Labour & Co-operative MP Alex Norris spoke on October 9, making the case for attacks on retail staff at work to be treated in court as ‘aggravated’ assaults. This would make offenders liable to a longer prison sentence to reflect the fact that their victim was serving the public.

October 15 sees the report stage of the Offensive Weapons Bill, which requires shopworkers to enforce new restrictions on the sale of acid and other corrosive substances.  An amendment tabled by Labour MP David Hanson will create a new offence of obstructing or threatening shop staff while doing their job, with fines of up to £2,500 for those convicted. Hanson’s amendment is supported by Usdaw and the British Retail Consortium.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, said: “When Parliament passes laws that shopworkers have to enforce, they should also provide legal protection for shopworkers. This poll clearly shows that the shopping public agree with our position, as do the retailers, so we hope that MPs are listening.”

Alex Norris, Labour & Co-operative MP for Nottingham North, added: “Every day, more than 260 retail workers face violence, just for doing their jobs. Six of those daily incidents involve a knife, two involve a gun. For hundreds of others, verbal abuse, intimidation and threats are a daily occurrence, considered ‘just part of the job’. It shouldn’t be.

“Nobody should face violence at work, and we have a particular responsibility to protect those who put themselves on the line to enforce the law.”