The British Retail Consortium (BRC) welcomes the announcement of a new Parliamentary inquiry on violence and abuse towards retail workers. This follows a joint letter to the Home Affairs Committee coordinated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and also signed by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), Usdaw and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN).

In September, these same organisations came together to call on the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper MP to launch an inquiry to “investigate this growing problem of violence and abuse against retail workers and the measures the Government should be taking to address it.” 

Weeks earlier, the BRC launched its Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge asking MPs to pledge to tackle retail crime and support legislation to better protect retail workers. An incredible 57 MPs from all major parties have so far signed the pledge, to champion shopworkers by “recognising the serious impact that violence and abuse has on shopworkers and the local communities they serve and stand with retail workers to support legislation to better protect them.”

This was in response to thousands of retail staff being subject to violence and abuse in the workplace. Furthermore, in June 2020, the Government rejected numerous calls to protect shopworkers through the creation of a specific offence for assaulting a retail worker, which would impose tougher penalties on perpetrators. 

The new inquiry will examine barriers to the reporting of incidents of violence or abuse and victim satisfaction with the actions taken by police and employers after an incident is reported. It will also explore whether a new offence of aggravated assaults against retail workers is required, and the adequacy of action taken by the Government on this issue following its 2019 call for evidence.

A call for evidence has already been launched by the committee, alongside a public survey to give individuals who have experienced these incidents the opportunity to share their experiences.

Retailers spent a record £1.2 billion on crime prevention in 2019, yet violence and abuse is on the rise, with over 400 incidents every day according the BRC’s latest Crime Survey. Since the start of the pandemic, shop staff have been verbally and violently assaulted, as well as spat at and coughed on for challenging shoplifters, enforcing age-restricted sales and implementing coronavirus safety measures.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium:
“Shopworkers around the UK have suffered for too long under the scourge of retail violence and abuse. No one should have to go to work in fear, just for doing their job. The BRC welcome the decision by the Home Affairs Committee to heed our call and launch an inquiry into this problem. 

“We hope the inquiry will address the approach taken by the police in tackling retail violence and abuse and look at how those who commit these crimes are punished. We look forward to engaging with the inquiry. 57 MPs have already signed their name and are standing alongside retail workers in their time of need, and we hope many more parliamentarians follow over the course of 2021.”