Retail executives from 23 of the UK’s leading shops, along with several prominent industry bodies, have signed a letter to the prime minister urging the government to introduce new laws to protect retail workers from violence and abuse.
This comes just a few days before the second reading of MP Alex Norris’s private member’s bill – Assaults on Retail Workers – takes place before The Commons on the 25th September. The bill has gained widespread publicity thanks to the outspoken support of the Co-op, who have incorporated it into their own campaign against retail violence. If successful, the bill will see the government make it a separate offence to attack or abuse retail workers who are trying to enforce age limits on alcohol or other restricted products. The new offence will be deemed more serious than other forms of abuse and will carry harsher penalties.
The retail executives who have put their names to the letter employ over 1.25 million workers between them and are keen to show their support for Alex Norris’ bill:
“In partnership with our colleagues on the front-line, with Usdaw and with a cross-party coalition of MPs, we support Alex Norris’ Private Members Bill to provide that greater protection for our colleagues.”
Attacks on shop workers were already on the rise, but the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed them to new levels, with many shoppers taking out their frustrations at confusing social distancing rules on the staff trying to enforce them. In the letter, the 23 retail executives explain that a united front is the only way to fight back against this violence:
“This united response from business leaders, trade unions and frontline workers should demonstrate the need for these additional protections. We believe there is a clear and broad-based consensus behind this Bill, and we ask that the government acts now to support this important bill and find time for it to pass through Parliament.”
In recent months, retailers have upped their security measures considerably. British retailers are now spending a total of £1.2 billion a year to keep their workers safe, and many believe that it is only fair that the government also does its part. Stuart Reddish, president of the National Federation of Independent Retailers, says that government assistance is long overdue:
“The impact of retail crime can be devastating and long-lasting – not just in terms of physical injuries but on anxiety and stress too. The government has to act and tackle retail crime once and for all.”