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Violence against retail staff escalates

Employers should teach staff skills to improve their safety, says managing director of Lodge Court

Violence and abuse against retail staff has increased by 50% in the last year, according to a report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The number of daily incidents such as racial abuse, sexual harassment, physical assault and threats with weapons, have risen from 870 per day in 2021-2022 to 1,300 a day in 2022-2023.

Ian Moore, managing director of HR consultancy Lodge Court, told HR magazine that employers should take action to safeguard staff in client-facing positions.

He said: “Employers have a duty of care towards their employees, so it is important for employers to communicate openly with their staff about these issues, providing reassurance and demonstrating a commitment to their safety.

“This includes regularly conducting risk assessments to identify potential hazards and dangers in the workplace, and training employees on how to handle difficult situations or aggressive behaviour.”

He added that these skills might include de-escalation techniques, conflict resolution skills and personal safety awareness.

Read more: Five ways HR can ensure health and safety in the workplace

Moore continued: “Employers should also invest in better security measures such as CCTV cameras, alarm systems, and appropriately trained security staff, and ensure there are clear, confidential reporting mechanisms in place so that everyone feels comfortable reporting any incidents of violence or abuse without fear of reprisal.”

The BRC report showed that the Co-op had installed more than 200 secure till kiosks, locked cabinets for bottles and spirits, and AI technology to monitor self-checkouts in its supermarkets. The Co-op has more than 2,000 stores across the UK.

The report also found that retailers had invested £1.3 billion on increased crime prevention, up from £772 million the previous year.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Despite retailers investing huge sums in crime prevention, violence and abuse against retail workers is climbing.

Read more: One in seven NHS staff have experienced physical violence at work

“With over 1,300 incidents every day, government can no longer ignore the plight of ordinary, hardworking retail colleagues.

“Criminals are being given a free pass to steal goods and to abuse and assault retail colleagues.

"No one should have to go to work fearing for their safety.”

The BRC’s annual crime survey revealed that 60% of retail workers expressed dissatisfaction with police response to issues.

The government published a retail crime action plan last October that prioritised attending to reports of violence against retail staff.

Retailers called on government to further protect staff by introducing a standalone offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker.