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SHOP WORKER VIOLENCE: Covid pandemic sees levels soar


Almost 9 in 10 retail workers say they have been verbally abused in the last 12 months.

60% of shop workers have reported threats of verbal violence, 9% have been physically attacked.

79% of retail staff believe violence and abuse against them has worsened since the pandemic began.

24% want a zero tolerance approach to abuse and violence by banning offenders from retailers.

Over the past year, we have seen as a nation how important our key workers at a retail level are in keeping the country going. While the majority of the public respect and commend the hard work and commitment of our shop workers, incidents of abuse and violence have become commonplace. Earlier in 2020, research from trade union Usdaw revealed that one in six of its members suffered verbal abuse on a daily basis. Sadly, this behaviour is still on the rise.

The new Freedom From Fear report from Usdaw highlights just how much of a problem verbal abuse and even physical violence has become for its members.

The survey, conducted from August to December last year, shows that almost nine in ten shop workers had been verbally abused in the last 12 months. A further 60% of Usdaw’s members reported threats of verbal violence, while 9% had been physically attacked in the workplace.

A staggering 79% of the shopworkers surveyed believe that that violence and abuse against them has worsened since the pandemic started, and many issues surrounding COVID-compliant shopping and trading have triggered these incidents. Enforcing social distancing in-store (24%), face coverings (15%), queueing to enter the store (17%), limiting sales (14%) and a lack of stock (15%) are some of the most common issues that have led to shopworker abuse and violence over the past six months.

Firm action and strict measures are needed in order to combat this escalation in abuse and violenceagainst retail workers. Almost a quarter (24%) of shop workers would like to see a zero tolerance approach with a strict ban on offenders, while more than a third (38%) want to see more management support.

Greater Covid security is another important improvement that shop workers want to see, which includes more security staff (14%) and better screens (3%). Calls for the use of body cameras (1%) were also suggested for the first time in Usdaw’s survey, showing the growing nee for surveillance, protection and evidence as the frequency of abuse and violence continues to rise.

Usdaw’s General Secretary Paddy Lillis wants more to be done to protect and support retail workers, who are under increasing pressure in their work due to the pandemic. Paddy is available for interview to explain how the public can support this cause and what needs to be put in place to ensure shopworkers’ safety. Usdaw’s Healthy and Safety Officer Doug Russell is also available for interview to explain how retail workers and their employers can better protect staff from being exposed to violence and abuse and what the public can do to help.

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