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24 April 2024

Protecting Retail Workers: Assault to Become a Standalone Criminal Offence

Protecting Retail Workers: Assault to Become a Standalone Criminal Offence

In a significant development to protect shop staff, the UK government has announced that assaulting a retail worker will now be treated as a standalone criminal offence in England and Wales. This decision comes after intense lobbying efforts from business leaders and unions, signalling a commitment to safeguarding our local businesses and their employees.

The Shift in Policy

Previously, the government resisted calls to create a specific offence for assaulting shop workers. However, in light of rising incidents of violence and abuse towards retail staff, the tide has turned. The move aims to address the pressing issue of safety for those who serve our communities daily.

Key Points:

  1. New Offence: Assaulting a retail worker will now carry its own legal weight. Perpetrators could face up to six months in prison, an unlimited fine, and a ban from returning to the shop where the offence occurred. These measures underscore the seriousness of such actions.
  2. Crackdown on Serial Offenders: The policy is part of a broader crackdown on serial or abusive shoplifters. By imposing tougher punishments, the government aims to deter criminal behaviour and protect both staff and businesses.
  3. Scotland’s Lead: The Scottish government already introduced a specific offence for violence and abuse of retail staff under the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) Act 2021. England and Wales are now following suit.

Business Community’s Response

  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak emphasised the importance of sending a clear message to criminals. “Whether they belong to organised gangs or are repeat offenders, the government’s stance is unequivocal: ‘Enough is enough.’ Local shops, often the lifeblood of our communities, must operate without fear of crime or abuse.”
  • Usdaw Union: General Secretary Paddy Lillis hailed this U-turn as long overdue. “The sustained campaigning by Usdaw and others has finally borne fruit.” However, Lillis insisted that the proposed laws must align with Scotland’s standards.
  • The Co-op Group: Paul Gerrard, campaigns and public affairs director, welcomed the announcement. “The Co-op, like many retailers, has long advocated for a standalone offence against shopworkers. These measures will enhance safety, protect shops, and benefit the communities they serve.”
  • John Lewis Partnership: Chairman Sharon White stressed that retail crime is far from victimless. “It exacts a heavy toll on retailers, impacting shop workers directly. Recognising violence towards retail workers as a standalone offence is a step in the right direction.”
  • British Retail Consortium (BRC): Chief Executive Helen Dickinson highlighted the worsening impact of retail violence. “From racial abuse to sexual harassment, these incidents affect ordinary hardworking people. The BRC urges the police to use the new legislation effectively.”

Retail workers have had it tough

As the government clamps down on repeat offenders targeting high streets, we can expect enhanced safety measures. Serial offenders may even be required to wear tracking devices, and facial recognition technology will play a crucial role in preventing shoplifting.

“It’s vital that the retail sector recruits the right staff and trains them properly to deal with conflict,” said Fran Webb, Head of KPI Retail. “But it’s also incumbent on law-makers, authorities and employers to make examples of criminals who persistently abuse, steal and are violent towards sales staff. These measures are welcome, if a little late. Retail workers have had an incredibly tough 4 years, being in the firing line during COVID and the cost-of-living crisis.”

“This decisive action hopefully underscores the commitment to protect our local businesses, empower retail workers, and ensure a safer shopping environment for all.”

If you need help with retail staff recruitment, call KPI Retail on 01782 712230 and speak to Fran or Lily. You can follow KPI Retail on Facebook and LinkedIn.