Where Parliament mandates age restrictions on certain products (alcohol, tobacco, knives, etc.) it is the retail sector enforcing these laws – and the retail workers on the front line who face abuse, violence and threats for doing so.

The cost of enforcement also falls to the retail sector, through crime prevention and covering the cost of losses due to theft. From the year 2017/18 to 2018/19 The costs rose by 20% to a total to £2.2 Billion annually. Is this right that it falls to retailers to completely ensure these laws are adhered to?

The £200 legal limit on prosecutable thefts, has led to a culture within the police that the British Retail Consortium (BRC) say: “a perception has evolved within the police that they should not and will not attend an incident for less than £200 of goods stolen”. As a result it should be obvious that shop workers feel poorly to police responses – with 70% of respondents to a BRC survey feeling that police responses to violence against shop workers are ‘poor, or very poor’. The mental and physical impacts of violence and abuse at work are worth more than an arbitrary £200 limit.

The evidence above underlines why the Co-operative Party strongly campaigns for greater protections against abuse, threats and harassment for shop workers. Our campaign #NotPartOfTheJob is raising awareness in public and in Westminster, and our Labour and Co-operative MPs have been championing the cause in Parliament. Alex Norris MP used PMQs to bring this issue to the Prime Minister’s attention, eliciting a positive response. Furthermore, Labour and Co-operative MPs participated in a Westminster Hall debate concerning this issue, gaining cross-party support and a commitment from the Minister of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service to publish the results of the call to evidence of violence against shop workers this month. These are all positive steps to be made, but urgent action is still needed in order to protect shop workers from being abused at work.

The BRC in conjunction with the trade union, USDAW, have today published a report highlighting the scale of the issues affecting retail workers and some recommendations to Parliament about what steps can be taken. This report shows the worsening environment for shop workers in the UK and some terrible personal stories of the kinds of abuse that some shop workers have been subject to. Furthermore, the report also suggests some recommendations for Parliament to legislate for:

  • Recommendations for leadership on, tackling the causes of and improving the police response to violence and abuse.
  • Recommendations to reduce the amount lost to theft and damage.
  • Recommendations to reduce the impact of fraud.

Going forward, the campaign mustn’t finish with this report – the shocking figures should spur us to further action. Labour & Co-operative MP, Alex Norris is due to present a Ten Minute Rule Motion later this month to introduce a specific offence for attacks on shop workers to further broaden the law. Labour & Co-operative MPs are continuing to champion this cause in Parliament, as are our Labour and Co-operative candidates for police and crime commissioner across the country.

But they cannot make this change happen alone. If you agree that abuse and violence are #NotPartOfTheJob and want to get involved in our campaign, click the link below to sign up to this campaign.