Boots staff will wear body cameras to protect them from customer abuse

Abuse levelled at shop staff has soared during the pandemic (Photo: Shutterstock)Abuse levelled at shop staff has soared during the pandemic (Photo: Shutterstock)
Abuse levelled at shop staff has soared during the pandemic (Photo: Shutterstock)

Employees at Boots pharmacies are to be fitted with body cameras in an effort to stem the growing abuse levelled at staff by customers.

The chemist will be trialling the cameras at several of their stores in Birmingham with the intention of rolling them out nationwide if successful.

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The move comes amidst a wave of abuse and assaults being suffered by retail staff up and down the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.

Though bosses and staff say levels of abuse and violence have been accelerating for years, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have intensified the situation, with staff reporting verbal abuse and even physical violence from customers.

More than 400 retail workers abused every day

In March 2019, a report released by the USDAW union estimated that more than 400 retail workers a day were being verbally or physically abused by customers. That number is estimated to have shot up throughout the pandemic, with Co-op alone reporting a 40 per cent increase in abuse incidents in 2020.

It's thought that a number of incidents have been sparked by enforcement of rules around social distancing and mask wearing in supermarkets, with abuse levels now so severe that senior retail leaders have written to the Prime Minister calling for a change in law to make assault, threats or abuse against shop workers illegal in England and Wales.

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Last month, Scotland passed its own such legislation, making abuse or assault against shop workers a specific offence in law.

Announcing the decision to trial wearable cameras in stores, a Boots spokesperson said: "Like other retailers, we are concerned about the increasing problem of violence and abuse experienced by hundreds of thousands of retail workers, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"As part of our responsibility to ensure that our colleagues working in stores are safe, we recently started a trial of body worn video cameras across a small number of stores in Birmingham."