Independent retailers welcome new law to protect shopworkers

Independent retailers welcome new law to protect shopworkers

A new law that seeks to protect frontline workers including police officers and health workers from violence at work takes effect in England and Wales this week.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act doubles the maximum penalty from 12 months to two years’ imprisonment for individuals who assault emergency services workers, prison officers, healthcare staff and other frontline workers including retail employees.

The new penalties took effect as the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), which represents organisations with customer-facing staff, published research finding 44% of frontline service staff had experienced hostility from customers in the past six months, up from 35% in February.

Its poll of more than 1,300 customer-facing staff found 35% felt customers’ behaviour and tone had become more aggressive over the past six months. Twenty-five per cent felt that heightened anxiety and hostility among customers had been driven by price increases specifically.

The Fed (Federation of Independent Retailers) has welcomed the new law. Common assault against anyone working in a retail store will now be classed as an aggravated offence, carrying tougher penalties.

The Fed’s National President Jason Birks said: “Attacks against store owners and their staff have been increasing for a number of years, so I am pleased that we are now being given the same protection in law as other frontline workers.

“Being attacked verbally or physically while just going about your daily business should not be tolerated and seen as part of the job.

“The important thing now is that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service work together to ensure this new law is an effective deterrent and not just a piece of paper.

“It’s essential that retailers report all incidents to highlight the scale of the problem, and the police response has to improve if retail crime is to be tackled head on.”