· News

Majority of retail staff have suffered workplace abuse

Two-thirds of UK retail workers have been exposed to violence or aggression in the workplace, according to research from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust

The charity surveyed more than 1,000 retail workers about their personal safety at work, and found that 66% of respondents had experienced violent or aggressive behaviour in the workplace.

A high number of respondents (83%) reported experiencing verbal abuse, but there were also a worryingly high number of incidents of physical assault (15%), sexual harassment (14%), verbal threats (38%) and bullying (28%).

Despite the high rates of violence and aggression, fewer than 18% of respondents had received personal safety training in person or online, only 34% knew of a written personal safety policy, and just 21% knew of clear reporting procedures for personal safety incidents.

When asked who carried out these incidents, 85% of respondents said customers and 31% said colleagues.

More than a quarter (27%) said that having security staff on site was the most effective personal safety measure, followed by panic buttons (8.4%), personal safety training delivered in person (4.1%), having a written personal safety policy (3.9%), and body-worn cameras (3.3%).

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2017, between April 2016 and April 2017 24% of all violent incidents took place on work premises. The Health and Safety Executive states that in 2016/17 this equated to an estimated 1.3% of working adults being the victims of one or more violent incidents at work.

Rachel Griffin, chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said the report shows that a significant number of employees still feel unsafe at work and that employers must do more here. "These survey results illustrate that despite measures being in place in some workplaces to reduce the risk of violence and aggression, many workers do not believe that these are sufficient to mitigate the risks they face. In some cases staff are not aware of any personal safety measures being in place,” she said.

In response to the findings the Suzy Lamplugh Trust has launched a charter for workplace safety with 10 recommendations. These include embedding a workplace safety culture, implementing adequate risk assessments, providing all employees with appropriate safety training, and having a system in place for all employees to discreetly raise an alarm.