MPs debate call for new offence for assaulting retail workers

By on

Retail workers in England should be given the same protections against violence as their colleagues in Scotland, a Committee heard.

The Petitions Committee, which considers e-petitions submitted to Parliament, met on 7 June. MPs were there to discuss the union representing shop workers, Usdaw's, petition, which has gathered over 104,000 signatures, to create a new, standalone offence of abusing, threatening or assaulting a retail worker.

The Committee heard how the British Retail Consortium has recently reported 455 incidences of abuse every day in the UK.

Matt Vickers, conservative MP for Stockton South said that although attacks have been triggered by staff having to enforce social distancing and mask wearing, problems have pre-dated the Pandemic.

“Our retail workers are mothers, some are semi-retired, or students, and being subject to disgusting abuse,” he said.

Vickers told of one worker who had been dragged out of a store and beaten up by a gang of teenagers. The worker had reported ‘having to wrestle needles out of drug addicts hands to prevent harm to colleagues.’ “We can’t have our shops turning into the Wild West. We need to make it safe for everyone,” said the MP who chairs the Committee. 

In Scotland, The Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) Bill became an Act on 24 February 2021 after it was introduced in 2019 by Daniel Johnson MSP. It makes it a criminal offence to assault, threaten or abuse workers in bars, restaurants or shops.

The government has said it is not persuaded that a specific measure is needed to protect the workforce in England. Responding to the petition it said: “A wide range of offences already exist which cover assaults against any worker, including shop workers.”

However, Usdaw says that sentencing is too complicated. Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, said: “A separate offence for assaulting a retail worker would be easier to determine, encourage prosecutions and provide the deterrent effect that our members are desperately looking for.

"A clear message that violence against someone working to serve the public is not acceptable, which is exactly what Conservative, SNP and Labour MPs called for at this evening’s debate.”

For more information, visit the Petitions Committee website here 


Grenfell Istock 1170168751 Olivierguiberteau MED

Grenfell Tower campaigners fear repeat unless action is taken

By Belinda Liversedge on 14 June 2021

Non-profit organisation Justice4Grenfell has launched a campaign calling for justice and accountability, four years to the day that 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

production line_0.jpg

Workers’ watchdog welcome, but needs funding says Peer

By Belinda Liversedge on 11 June 2021

Members of the House of Lords clashed at a Parliamentary debate on the government's new workers’ watchdog, which has been set up to protect the rights of UK workers.

Menopause Istock 1044148964 Ridofranz MED

Women made to feel ‘incapable of doing their job’ because of menopause

By Belinda Liversedge on 10 June 2021

An MP has called for workplace menopause policies to be made mandatory, to help women work through what can be the most difficult time of their lives.