The Co-op Group has welcomed news of a key amendment tabled to the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill, which would offer greater protection for store workers from violence and abuse.
With abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour against all shopworkers reaching unprecedented levels, the Group, alongside the Co-op Party and other retail societies, has campaigned for more than three years for greater protection in law which would send out a loud and clear message that it is unacceptable.
A government amendment to the Bill, for debate in Lords Report, has now been tabled, which is intended to signal to retail workers and those serving the public that they can feel protected from abuse when working.
The amendment places into statue the current aggravating factor used by the courts in cases of assault, as set out in the Sentencing Council sentencing guidelines. This applies where an offence is committed against those providing a public service, performing a public duty or providing a service to the public. It also reinforces in statute the seriousness with which the courts should treat these offences.
The Group reported that it had seen a 76% increase in recorded anti-social behaviour and verbal abuse last year compared to the previous year – with more than 100 incidents every day. It had also seen attacks on its frontline shopworkers increase by more than 650% over a five-year period. In the latest Crime Survey (2021) issued by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the trade body reported that almost nine-in-ten (89%) of those working in local shops had experienced some kind of abuse.
Jo Whitfield, CEO Co-op Food, said: “There is nothing more important to us than protecting our colleagues who have bravely added their voice to calls for greater protection and talked openly about the harrowing experiences they endure while serving our communities.
“Assaults should not be part of the job. It is not just the physical impact, but the mental wellbeing of frontline shopworkers who face this unacceptable behaviour on a daily basis. Now they have been listened to, and a new workers’ law will send out a clear message and start to bring about a change in the perception that it is ok to attack and abuse shopworkers.”