80% of shop workers report increased levels of abuse since lockdown in union survey

New statistics published today by shop and retail worker union Usdaw have revealed the extent of abuse faced by Scottish retail workers during the pandemic, with 79% of those surveyed across the UK stating that abuse had worsened last year.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 12:02 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 7:31 am
“We are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be part of the job" said Usdaw's General Secretary Paddy Lillis following a survey revealing retail staff had received increased levels of abuse during the pandemic. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The findings come ahead of the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) Bill coming into force this summer, which seeks to clamp down on instances of verbal and physical abuse faced by retail staff when upholding government policies like Challenge 25 and mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops.

While Usdaw General Secretary Paddy Lillis said that “our hope is that this new legislation will result in retail staff getting the protection and respect they deserve,” the union’s recent survey reveals that of 2,729 UK shopworkers surveyed, 79% said that abuse had gotten worse during the pandemic.

Likewise, 88% of retail staff surveyed said they had faced verbal abuse and 60% said they had been threatened by a customer.

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According to Usdaw’s survey, examples of abuse ranged from “People get stroppy about wearing face coverings” to threats, “attempted armed robbery” and physical assaults on retail staff working the frontline in Scottish communities.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “It is heart-breaking to hear these testimonies from Scottish shopworkers who deserve far more respect than they receive. Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers. It has been a terrible year for our members, with almost 90% of shopworkers suffering abuse, two-thirds threatened and one in ten assaulted.

“We are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be part of the job. At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a disgrace that staff working to keep food on the shelves and the shop safe for customers are being abused. So we very much welcomed the ground-breaking legislation to protect shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse, passed by the Scottish Parliament in January. Usdaw has campaigned for many years to secure these legal protections.”

Read Usdaw’s report in full here.

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