'Pandemic of abuse' of shopworkers in Sheffield as most say they have been physically or verbally abused

Almost 90 per cent of retail workers in South Yorkshire say they have experienced abuse while at work in the last year, trade union figures have shown.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 2:48 pm

Retail staff in South Yorkshire have spoken out about the physical and verbal abuse they receive while at work, and unions have called for a ‘protection of shopworkers law’ and branded the was people treat frontline staff as ‘appalling’.

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The Moor, Sheffield. A popular shopping area.

Meanwhile, 64 per cent said they had been threatened and 11 per cent said they had been assaulted.

And only seven per cent of cases were reported, with 46 per cent of staff saying they did not feel reporting the incidents would make any difference.

In South Yorkshire, retail workers who answered the Usdaw survey reported: “Annoyed customers taking their frustration out on them”; “general threats of violence on a regular basis”; and one incident where a worker was “attacked after ID check. He stole my mask I asked for it back, he kicked me and ripped my social distancing T-Shirt.”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, said: “It is heartbreaking to hear these testimonies from shopworkers who deserve far more respect than they receive. Our latest survey results clearly show the scale of the appalling violence, threats and abuse faced by shopworkers and demonstrate the need for a ‘protection of shopworkers’ law.

Paddy Lillis, of Usdaw

“It is shocking that nine in 10 of our members working in retail are suffering abuse from customers, with far too many experiencing threats and violence. So it is extremely worrying that over half are not confident that reporting these issues will make any difference and seven per cent of those assaulted did not report the incident.

“The new protection of workers law in Scotland is welcome and we urge the UK Government to extend it to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Retail staff across the UK have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.

“This is a hugely important issue for our members and they are saying loud and clear that enough is enough. The alarm bells are ringing and it is time for the Government to make a difference.”

She said: “Since the start of the pandemic, more than half of customer-facing workers have experienced verbal or physical abuse while they do their job. 80 per cent of the UK’s workforce has some form of public-facing role – that’s our children, our parents, and our families, and all the people who have worked so hard to keep us safe through the covid crisis.

That pandemic of abuse must end. That’s why we’re fighting for a change in the law.”