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Call for evidence

Violence and abuse towards retail workers

Background

Research has suggested that there has been an increase in violence and abuse experienced by retail workers in recent years.

The British Retail Consortium’s 2020 Retail Crime Survey reported a record number of just under 155,000 incidents of violence and abuse towards retail workers in 2018-19, an increase of 9% on the previous year and equating to 424 violent or abusive incidents per day. The Association of Convenience Stores’ 2020 Crime Report stated that there were an estimated 50,338 incidents of violence in the sector in 2019 and that 83% of colleagues had experienced verbal abuse. A September survey by the Usdaw union found that 68% of interviewed workers had been verbally abused at least once in the last year, with 43% saying that they had been threatened with physical violence,and the Home Office’s latest Commercial Victimisation Survey estimated that there were 590,000 incidents of assaults and threats experienced by wholesale and retail premises in 2018. This is almost three times the number estimated in 2016.

In addition, incidents increased during the Coronavirus pandemic. A survey by Usdaw published in April 2020 found that 62% of shopworkers had been abused, 29% had been threatened and 4% had been physically assaulted since the beginning of the pandemic. When averaged across the three million workers in the sector this equated to the average shopworker being assaulted, threatened or abused once a week.

In response there have been calls to improve the police response to such incidents – only 5% of respondents to the British Retail Consortium’s survey described the police’s response as ‘Good’ with 70% viewing it as ‘Poor’ or ‘Very poor’ – and for the creation of a specific offence of abusing, threatening or assaulting a public facing worker.

The Government ran a public call for evidence in 2019 aimed at understanding the problem of violence and abuse towards shop staff. In its response, published in July 2020, the Government rejected calls for legislative changes, and outlined a programme of work aiming to deepen understanding of retail abuse and violence and provide guidance and support to victims.

 

Terms of reference

 The Committee is looking to receive written evidence on the following points:

  • The police response to incidents of abuse and violence towards retail workers;
  • Barriers to justice for victims of retail abuse and violence;
  • Whether a new aggravated offence is required;
  • The adequacy of the Government’s response to its call for evidence.

Please note that the Committee is not able to take up individual cases.

The Committee is not able to reopen any complaints against the police.

The Committee is not able to consider any matters that are currently subject to legal proceeding.

If you think your written evidence might come under any of the above categories please contact the Committee's staff at email HOMEAFFCOM@parliament.uk for further advice.

The Committee requests that submissions of evidence be submitted by 12 noon on Friday 22 January 2021.

 

Survey

In addition, the Committee is launching a public survey to understand further the response to reported incidents of violence and abuse towards retail workers.

Aimed at retail workers who have experienced abuse or violence in the course of their work, the anonymous survey will ask about the reporting of incidents; the responses from employers, the police and the wider criminal justice system after a report; and victims’ satisfaction with the responses received.

The survey closed at 12 noon on Friday 22 January 2021. We are very grateful for all the responses. Staff are now analysing the information to help the Committee's work.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this survey you may wish to contact organisations such as Victim Support, the Samaritans, or the Health and Safety Executive for support and guidance. If you wish to report an incident, you can do so through Crimestoppers or your local police service.

If you have a complaint against the police, advice on how to complain is available here – including contact details for your local police force, who are the first people you should complain to.

 

Information about submitting written evidence

Decisions about publishing evidence anonymously, or about accepting but not publishing evidence, are made by the Committee. If you would like to ask the Committee to accept your submission anonymously (meaning it will be published but without your name), or confidentially (meaning it won't be published at all), please say at the start of your evidence which of these you want to request, and tell us why. This lets the Committee know what you would like but the final decision will be taken by the Committee.

In line with the general practice of select committees the Home Affairs Committee is not able to take up individual cases. If you would like political support or advice you may wish to contact your local Member of Parliament. The Committee understands that personal experience may be relevant but requests that any written submissions directly address the terms of reference set out above.

The Committee will decide whether to accept each submission. If your submission is accepted by the Committee, it will usually be published online. It will then be available permanently for anyone to view. It can’t be changed or removed. If you have included your name or any personal information in your submission, that will normally be published too. Please consider how much personal information you want or need to share. If you include personal information about other people in your submission, the Committee may decide not to publish it. Your contact details will never be published.

Submissions should be received by 12 noon on Friday 22 January 2021.

 

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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