Guidelines to help protect the retail sector’s three million employees from violence are being launched today, after the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) Retail Crime Survey found shop staff were victims of almost 36,000 incidents of violence or abuse last year. The Guidelines are endorsed by Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention Norman Baker, shop workers’ union Usdaw and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
Respondents to the BRC Retail Crime Survey revealed there were 38 incidents of violence and abuse per 1,000 employees in 2012-13. This equated to 25,000 instances of abusive or aggressive behavior towards staff and over 11,000 incidents of violence, the majority of which resulted in injury to the shop worker.
The widely supported BRC guidelines Tackling violence against staff aim to help retailers of all sizes improve staff protection and make it clear that abuse from customers should not be considered ‘part of the job.’ They demonstrate the extent of action being taken by retailers to keep staff safe, from safety-conscious design of the working environment to conflict management training and having effective procedures for when an incident occurs.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: “Everyone has the right to feel safe at work and the National Retail Crime Steering Group, which I co-chair with the British Retail Consortium, considers violence against retailers to be a high priority.
“The government supports the publication of these guidelines today, which we hope will help retailers better protect themselves and their staff and educate shop workers in how to diffuse potential flashpoints. We also hope this guidance will improve crime reporting rates which we know are under reported.
“We will not tolerate violence towards shop workers, and have been very clear that the courts can take into account violence against those serving the public as an aggravating factor in considering the appropriate sentence.”
Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers invest considerable time and resources in building and training their teams as well as protecting their workers, stock and property. Our guidelines are designed to help businesses of all sizes share and understand best practice in preventing staff from being attacked or abused. Beyond what retailers can themselves do, it is important that the police and criminal justice system respond effectively to those who are violent or threatening towards people who work in retail. They should be dealt with in exactly the same way as someone who commits such a crime on the street.”
John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw, said: “Usdaw welcomes these up-dated guidelines and BRC’s continued backing for the Union’s Freedom from Fear campaign. Usdaw’s own surveys in recent years have highlighted the scale of under-reporting, which found that one in four staff did not report the incident to their employer or the police in 2013. That is why the Union supports the BRC’s message to employers on the need for clear policies on violence in the workplace which are well communicated to staff so that they know that it will not be tolerated and understand how the organisation will protect them from violent or abusive acts”
James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said: “Violence against staff and retailers is unacceptable but still a huge problem with 51% of convenience retailers reporting some experience of violence or verbal abuse in the last year. We are supporting this guidance document to aid retailers to mitigate violence in their business and support staff.”