A Government report has labelled it “appalling” that cases of abuse and violence towards retail workers have gone up during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report by the Home Affairs Select Committee said: “The last five years has seen a shocking rise in attacks on retail workers. The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) found that 89% of individuals working in local shops had experienced some form of abuse.

“The British Retail Consortium reported that the number of incidents recorded last year amounts to the equivalent of one a minute during a typical shopping day.

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“It is completely unacceptable that violence and abuse towards retail workers is becoming endemic in British society.”

It called for a stronger police presence in order to keep safe the workers who are propping up high streets and communities around the UK, and who are already putting themselves at risk by going into a public-facing workplace during the pandemic.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive, Helen Dickinson, welcomed the report, saying: “The report rightly acknowledges the scale of the issue, and we are pleased to see that it calls on Government to urgently consult on a new criminal offence.

“The BRC has been long calling for a new statutory offence for abusing, threatening or assaulting a shopworker. An offence would impose tougher penalties on perpetrators and send a clear message that these incidents will not be tolerated.

“Shop workers have suffered for far too long – according to our latest Crime Survey, violence and abuse is on the rise with over 450 incidents of violence and abuse every day, despite retailers spending record sums of £1.2 billion on crime prevention.
“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.
“Notwithstanding the evidence, the Government has repeatedly rejected numerous calls to protect shopworkers through the creation of a specific offence.
“We hope this report will prompt the Government to finally do what is necessary to protect retail staff from harm across the country and stop dragging its feet – this could be achieved through an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is currently going through parliament.”