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Violence and abuse towards retail workers inquiry launched

18 December 2020

The Home Affairs Committee announces a new inquiry to explore the police response to incidents of violence and abuse experienced by retail workers. As part of this, the Committee has also launched a public survey to give individuals who have experienced these incidents the opportunity to explain what happened after an incident was reported.

Research carried out by the British Retail Consortium indicated that there were 155,000 incidents of violence or verbal abuse against staff in 2018-19; a 2019 survey by the Association of Convenience Stores found that 83% of workers had been subject to some form of verbal abuse; and a survey of its members by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) found that the average shopworker was assaulted, threatened or abused once a week. There are also concerns that the number of incidents has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The inquiry examines barriers to the reporting of incidents of violence or abuse and victim satisfaction with the action taken by police and employers after an incident is reported. It also explores whether a new offence aggravating assaults against retail workers is required, and the adequacy of action taken by the Government on this issue following its 2019 call for evidence.

Chair's comments

Launching the inquiry and survey, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP said:

“The increase in reported attacks and abuse against shop workers during the Covid 19 pandemic is appalling and unacceptable. No one should feel unsafe at their place of work and there are no circumstances where such behaviour should be tolerated. The crisis has shown how important shopworkers are as key workers - keeping vital services going during difficult times.

“The Home Affairs Committee has launched this new inquiry into crimes against shop workers. We want to hear experiences of retail workers and find out if they are getting the support they need from their employers and the police. We will also look at what changes in policy or the law could help reduce incidents of violence against retail workers and remove barriers to them seeking justice.

“We want to hear from those who have been directly affected by these issues. If you or your colleagues have experienced violence or felt threatened at work, please take part in our online survey. Your responses are completely confidential and will help us to make recommendations about what more can be done to support retail workers and combat such appalling behaviour.”

Call for evidence

The Committee welcomes written submissions addressing some or all of the issues set out in the terms of reference:

  • 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. 

More information about how to submit evidence is available here.

The closing date for submissions is Friday 22 January.

Public survey

As part of the inquiry the Home Affairs Committee has launched an online survey, inviting individuals who work in retail and who have experienced the issues addressed in the inquiry to tell them about their experiences.

The easy to complete survey asks questions about how well individuals have been supported by the police or their employers, barriers to accessing justice and what more can be done to combat violence against retail workers.

The survey is open until Friday 22 January. For more information or to take part, visit the online survey page.

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.

Further information

Image: CCO