Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, condemns the Government for voting against the creation of a law that would offer better protections for retail staff as violence, threats and abuse directed towards workers skyrockets since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Labour Party tabled amendments to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill that would create a specific offence of assaulting a retail worker with a sentence of up to 12 months, and a new offence for assaults committed as a direct result of workers enforcing statutory age restrictions. This would give greater protection to retail workers as they go about their jobs, particularly when enforcing statutory age restrictions on the sale of products such as acid and knives. Currently, a shopworker can be prosecuted for not enforcing the laws on age related sales, but have no specific protections for abuse they may encounter when doing so.
These amendments were voted down by the Government in Parliament on Monday evening, as they continue to refuse to support a specific law that would protect retail workers.
In the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) 2020 survey of shopworkers, 88% of respondents had experienced verbal abuse, 60% had been threatened by a customer and 9% were assaulted. Shopworkers being asked to enforce social distancing and face masks to keep shoppers safe has put them more at risk of experiencing abuse, with 79% of shopworkers reporting that abuse was worse than in 2019.
Shabana Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said:
“Despite retail staff working on the frontline throughout the pandemic, the Coronavirus crisis has sadly resulted in a significant increase in abuse, threats and violence against shopworkers. This is unacceptable.
“The Conservatives had the opportunity to introduce a law that would make abusing, threatening or assaulting a retail worker a specific offence, but in voting against the proposed amendment they have turned their backs on shopworkers safety.
“Shopworkers are desperate for measures to be imposed to act as a deterrent to those who think they can abuse and threaten them for enforcing the law. The Government must think again and send out a clear message that violence against retail staff will not be tolerated.”