Violence and abuse against British shop workers tripled during Covid-19 pandemic

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Cases of violence and abuse against Britain’s retail workers almost tripled during the pandemic to about 1,300 incidents a day.

That’s according to a survey by the British Retail Consortium, which showed almost one in 10 daily incidents involved violence against store staff, with only 4 per cent of occurrences resulting in prosecution.

Three in five respondents said the police response to these incidents was “poor” or “very poor”, according to the study, which covered the 12 months through March 2021.

The abuse was largely confined to essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies, which stayed open during the pandemic while non-essential retail stores were forced to close.

This prompted the British government to amend the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to include incidents committed against workers providing a public service.

“These figures make particularly grim reading as they came at the height of the pandemic when the ‘hidden heroes’ of retail were working tirelessly,” said Ms Helen Dickinson, chief executive officer of the BRC. “It is shocking that this huge rise in incidents took place in a smaller pool of stores as much of the industry was in lockdown.”

A survey released last week showed one in five retail workers is planning to quit due to concerns around their finances, abuse from customers and poor mental health throughout the pandemic. A quarter of managers also want to leave the industry, the survey showed.

Alongside the emotional and physical impact on retail workers is the financial hit to the industry.

The total cost of retail crime stood at £1.5 billion (S$2.6 billion) in the 12-month period, with £663 million lost to customer theft and £715 million spent on crime prevention, according to the BRC.


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