Retailers are taking action as new figures reveal a dramatic increase in reported incidents of abuse against shop staff.
The latest British Retail Consortium annual crime survey found that more than 35,000 retail workers had suffered physical or verbal abuse or threats during 2011.
There were 26 incidents per 1,000 employees – an increase of 83% on 2010.
The rise was chiefly in verbal abuse and is partly the result of retailers and the BRC urging retail workers to report every incident to help build a fuller picture and to encourage the criminal justice system to give the problem the attention it deserves.
Now, the BRC is publishing new guidance, Tackling Violence Against Staff, showing the extent of action being taken by retailers to keep staff safe, including conflict management training being offered to some employees. The new guidelines are the result of an audit of policies being used by BRC retailers and aim to help retailers of all sizes improve staff protection.
BRC head of crime Catherine Bowen said: “Retailers invest considerable resources in protecting their workers, stock and property. Protecting staff from violence means taking many factors into account, from the positioning of in-store CCTV to how those who do carry out attacks are prosecuted. Companies are doing a lot to prevent trouble occurring in the first place, for example by giving customer service staff training in how to avoid conflict.
“Our new guidelines will help businesses be sure they’ve done all they can to prevent staff from being attacked or abused. The question that remains is whether the police and criminal justice system are doing all within their power to protect the country’s 3m retail employees. Those who are violent or threatening towards our staff are as guilty of a crime as anyone who behaves that way on the street. The police response needs to reflect that.”
The new guidelines, which can be found at http://www.brc.org.uk/downloads/Tackling_Violence_Against_Staff.pdf, are endorsed by shop workers’ union Usdaw.