// BRC & Usdaw urge Brits to keep the safety of shopworkers in mind as non-essential reopens on Monday
// The pandemic saw a rise in violence & abuse against shopworkers, with incidents occurring when customers don’t follow rules
// Usdaw found that nearly 90% of shopworkers suffered abuse of some kind since the pandemic started
The BRC and Usdaw have urged Brits to keep the safety of shopworkers in mind as non-essential retailers in England and Wales prepare to reopen their doors on Monday.
The two organisations also wanted Brits to “play their part” in ensuring there was no risk to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The government recently published an updated safety guidance ahead of reopening which states that all customers will have to continue to follow social distancing rules – like shopping alone or in small groups, queuing or following one-way signs where necessary, follow hygiene rules, and wearing a face covering unless they have an exemption.
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The BRC and Usdaw said the Covid-19 pandemic saw a rise in violence and abuse against shopworkers, with incidents often occurring when staff encourage customers to follow these rules.
Shopworkers have been coughed on, attacked and threatened.
A survey carried out by Usdaw found that nearly 90 per cent of shopworkers suffered abuse of some kind since the pandemic started and that Covid safety measures were the significant flashpoints.
“Retailers are ready and are looking forward to welcoming people back into stores. Hopefully, things will start to get back to normal soon, but for now we need to be cautious and to look out for each other,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“We all need to play our part to keep ourselves, our fellow customers, and hardworking retail colleagues safe, so we are asking people to stick to the rules and not to overreact if someone asks you to wear a face covering or follow safety instructions when you’re out shopping.
“The recent surge in violence against shopworkers must end. Our colleagues have played a vital role in getting food and other items into our homes during the pandemic – ensuring everyone has access to the items they need and keeping stores safe for customers and colleagues.
“Yet they have been coughed at, spat on, racially abused, and threatened with weapons. No one should go to work fearing for their safety. This is why we are asking everyone – now and in the future – to be respectful to shopworkers. They deserve our thanks.”
Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “The reopening of stores on Monday offers a lifeline for many retailers, which helps to safeguard jobs, but the virus is still out there.
“We expect employers to follow the agreed guidance and ensure that customers are fully informed of the necessary safety measures.
“Shoppers need to play their part in helping to limit the spread of the virus and avoid further lockdowns by following the rules and respecting staff.
“Regrettably, throughout this appalling pandemic, incidents of abuse towards shopworkers doubled. It should never be just a part of the job and shopworkers must be respected, we need a ‘protection of shopworkers’ law.”
In September, the BRC launched its Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge asking MPs to pledge to tackle retail crime and support legislation to better protect retail workers.
Fifty-seven MPs from all major parties signed the pledge, championing shopworkers by “recognising the serious impact that violence and abuse has on shopworkers and the local communities they serve and stand with retail workers to support legislation to better protect them”.
Over 65 retail CEOs also recently wrote to the Prime Minister calling for greater protection for shopworkers.
Late last year, the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the issue the day after Usdaw secured over 104,000 signatures on a “protect shopworkers” petition.
In January, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a ground-breaking new law to protect shopworkers.
The final results of Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2729 shopworkers across the UK found that 88 per cent experienced verbal abuse; 60 per cent were threatened by a customer; nine per cent were assaulted, and 79 per cent of shopworkers say abuse was worse last year.
Retailers have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on measures designed to prevent the transmission of Covid, including safety glass, queue management systems, social distancing signage, better ventilation, and more frequent cleaning.
These measures have been updated in accordance with the latest government guidance, which addresses issues such as testing of staff, use of fitting rooms, and safe use of air conditioning and ventilation.