Scottish Government backs proposed shopworker protection laws

Daniel Johnson

The Scottish Government has thrown its weight behind proposed new legislation that would give shopworkers greater protection from threats and assault.

Community safety minister Ash Denham confirmed to MSPs on Holyrood’s Justice Committee that the Government will back the legislation when it comes before the Scottish Parliament for a vote next week (24 September) – if some changes are made.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson’s Protection of Workers Bill that would make it a new specific offence to assault, abuse or threaten retail staff, particularly in relation to a mandatory activity such as requesting ID for age restricted products.

The Government wants to remove parts that would make it an offence to “hinder or obstruct” shop staff.

If the Bill receives the necessary support, it will then move forward to Stage 2 where it will undergo detailed scrutiny and debate with any potential amendments also being considered.

In June Holyrood’s Economy Committee recommended unanimously that MSPs should support the general principles of the Protection of Workers Bill.

Denham said the legislation “will help emphasise the importance of law enforcement using their powers to protect retail workers.”

She added: “Subject to certain amendments being made to the Bill in Parliament, the Scottish Government will be supporting this legislation to improve understanding of the extent of offences against retail workers and to ensure a new specific offence can be used for assaults, threats and abuse committed against these workers.”

Daniel Johnson (pictured), MSP for Edinburgh Southern, said: “I’m delighted to see the Scottish Government have agreed to support my Bill at stage 1 next week, adding their backing to this important issue along with Trade Unions and retail groups across the country.

“Passing my bill into law will provide an important recognition of the key duty shopworkers have upholding the law and the issues they face doing so. Most critically, the pandemic has seen people working in retail performing critical roles, supplying the basic essentials to all of us and keeping us safe as we do so. This bill pays an important tribute to these efforts over the last six months.”

A ”delighted” Scottish Grocers’ Federation welcomed the decision. SGF Policy Manager Luke McGarty said: “Serious in-store retail crime is not going away and impacts on retailers, their staff, their families, customers and the wider community. The Bill represents a unique – perhaps a once in a generation – opportunity to create a safer retail environment.

“SGF is fully behind the Bill and is a crucial step in the right direction and we urge MSPs to support it.”

The Scottish Retail Consortium was also in favour. Its Head of Policy Ewan MacDonald-Russell commented: “The bill is an opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to lead the way in in the UK in supporting hard-working retail staff – and we hope all parties will support the thrust of the legislation.”