Following the horrific footage of Clapham Asda workers being punched, kicked, and beaten by customers earlier this summer, I reached out to frontline workers in my home city of Sheffield and asked them to get in touch with their experiences of abuse at work. It is an understatement to say I was shocked by what I heard.

One person told me that “being on the receiving end of abuse at work is just expected at this point.” Another said there had been “too many [incidents of abuse] to name over the past 18 months.” A checkout operator from Sheffield, told me they had had a full basket of shopping thrown at them, when reminding a customer to follow social distancing rules. Another shop worker reported near daily abuse in response to having to enforce Covid rules, including abusive shouting, swearing and spitting, with the most recent incident involving threats to “smash [their] face in”.

Nearly all of those that got in touch reported receiving no help following the incidents.

According to The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers latest survey published in February 2021 of over 2,700 retail workers, almost 9 in 10 were verbally abused last year. 60% reported threats of physical violence and 9% said they had been physically assaulted. Three out of four said levels of abuse had increased during the pandemic.

Tomorrow, I will be bringing a motion to Parliament, backed by the Institute of Customer Service, the Co-operative Party, and trade unions to finally make verbal or physical abuse of any frontline worker a criminal offence.

My Ten Minute Rule Bill will build on the 2018 ‘Protect the Protectors’ Act, which made the assault of an emergency worker while they carry out their duties a specific criminal act. This law, whilst a hugely positive step, is inconsistently applied and fails to protect a whole subsection of frontline workers in customer-facing roles, including retail workers.

Creating a new, broader offence which relates to all public-facing workers, would encourage law enforcement to proactively investigate and support complaints against perpetrators and ensure all our frontline staff, from shop assistants to bus drivers, are properly protected from abuse at work.

We cannot leave our front-line workers to suffer in silence any longer. It is long past time we end this pandemic of abuse.