Edinburgh MSP's new law to protect shop staff from attack will come into force in weeks

A new law to protect shopworkers in Scotland from violence, threats and abuse will come into force on August 24, the Scottish Government has announced.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 4:45 pm

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The legislation, which was proposed by Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, was unanimously approved by the Scottish Parliament earlier this year.

It creates a new offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker and requires courts to treat such offences more seriously if the worker was carrying out a statutory duty such as asking for proof of age.

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Shopworkers union Usdaw campaigned for a change in the law under the slogan 'Freedom from Fear. Abuse is Not Part of the Job.'

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Shop workers must be protected from violence and abuse – Daniel Johnson MSP

It is estimated 15 retail workers are assaulted on an average day in Scotland and in a year one in three shopworkers will be threatened, and three in five abused.

Tracy Gilbert, Scottish regional secretary of the shopworkers’ union Usdaw, said: “Retail staff have been on the frontline throughout the coronavirus crisis, helping to keep our communities fed, despite the risks of contracting the virus. Our 2020 survey showed that nine in ten shopworkers had been abused last year. This new law firmly backs up Usdaw’s clear message that abuse is not part of the job.

“We are now looking to work with the Scottish Government, police and retailers to promote the new law. We want criminals to understand that assaulting and abusing shopworkers is unacceptable and will land them with a stiffer sentence. Our hope is that this new legislation will result in retail staff getting the respect they deserve.”

Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK found that 88 per cent experienced verbal abuse, 60 per cent were threatened by a customer, nine per cent were assaulted and 79 per cent said abuse was worse last year.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said Scotland was leading the way on protection of shopworkers and called on the UK parliament to back similar legislation.

"Retail employers, leading retail bodies and the shopworkers’ trade union are jointly calling for legislation, so it is time for the Government and MPs to listen. We are now looking for MPs to support key workers across the retail sector and help turn around the UK Government’s opposition and follow Scotland’s lead.”

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