Edinburgh MSP's new law to protect shop staff from violence, threats and abuse comes into force today
Shopworkers were today urged to report incidents involving violence, threats or abuse as a new law to tackle the problem came into force.
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The legislation – put forward in the Scottish Parliament by Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson and unanimously approved earlier this year – 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.
Retail trade union Usdaw said shop staff should report incidents to ensure the new law has an effect on the ever-increasing level of abuse they face.
Usdaw has launched a Freedom from Fear summer campaign week this week with shocking statistics from their annual survey.
Preliminary results from nearly 2,000 retail staff across the UK show that in the last 12 months 92 per cent experienced verbal abuse, 70 per cent were threatened by a customer and 14 per cent were assaulted.
But the survey also found one in five victims had never reported an incident to their employer, including five per cent of those who had been assaulted.
Shopworkers in Lothian who took part in the survey complained of “lack of respect for requesting social distancing” and “people insulting me or raising their voices when asked to follow basic Covid regulations”.
Another said: “Multiple times I’ve had stuff thrown at me and once was kicked into a machine.”
Tracy Gilbert, Usdaw’s Scottish regional secretary, said: “For this new legislation to have a real impact, we need to make sure staff report incidents of violence, threats or abuse to their manager. We are aware that some retail workers may feel it won’t make a difference, but my message to shop workers is absolutely clear: report it to sort it.
“We are working 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.”
Daniel Johnson said he was delighted to see his Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act come into effect.
He said: “For so may years many shop workers have seen threats and abuse as just part of the job and this Act is a step change in changing that.
"What we want from here is to see the law used – we want to see prosecutions and we want to ensure the penalties reflect the seriousness of the situation.
"But we also need to see the UK government and parliament follow suit.”
STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “Abuse of workers is never acceptable. During the pandemic we have seen an unprecedented rise of attacks on shop workers. This bill will hopefully begin to help curb these attacks, but going forward shop workers need much more. Decent pay, decent hours and strong trade unions are still just as important as ever.”