Shop workers risk a “store crime epidemic” unless the new legislation to protect staff is introduced, ministers are being warned.
The Co-op confirmed that crime had hiked by more than 140 per cent in its stores so far this year, despite praise for the critical role played by retail workers during the coronavirus crisis.
The retailer said violent incidents have hit record levels, with 1,350 attacks reported, including shop workers being spat at and threatened with being “given coronavirus”.
The company said concerns for well-being of store staff has grown, claiming the Government had failed to act, exactly one year after its call for evidence on violence against shop staff closed.
The Co-op said recent examples of coronavirus-related attacks up and down the country included a store manager in the West Midlands reporting verbal abuse and threats of violence.
While a shop boss in Essex said she had been physically assaulted with a shoplifter threatening to spit in her face.
Both described the incidents as ‘terrifying.’
You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:
Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence
Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill
PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141
Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information on its website
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit
Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58
The Co-op is supporting MP Alex Norris’s Assault on Shop Workers Bill which has seen its second reading in Parliament postponed.
Hundreds of Co-op employees from around the UK have filmed short videos detailing their harrowing experiences.
Co-op Food chief executive Jo Whitfield said: “Last year, more than 600 of my colleagues bravely took the time to share their own experiences of abuse, violence and intimidation with the Home Office as part of their call for evidence.
“Yet here we are, a year on since the consultation closed and there has still been no response. My colleagues need to have their contributions acknowledged in order to know that the Government takes retail crime seriously. This issue is not going away, it’s just getting worse thanks to the onset of coronavirus.
“The role played by shop workers in serving their communities, particularly during the last 12 weeks, is nothing short of amazing and they have rightly been deemed as key workers who are playing an essential role in keeping the nation fed.
“Yet despite this recognition, they are continually disrespected and have to contend with unprecedented levels of violence and abuse on a daily basis.”
Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the shopworkers union Usdaw, added: “At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a disgrace that people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted. Urgent action is required.”