The Government is clear that it is totally unacceptable that shopworkers are subjected to threats, intimidation or violence, simply for carrying out a day’s work – retail staff deserve to work in an environment which is as safe and secure as possible.
The Home Office is working with retail organisations, USDAW and enforcement agencies to tackle retail crime and crimes against shop workers through the National Retail Crime Steering Group, which the Minister of State for Crime Prevention chairs with the British Retail Consortium. Tackling violence against shop workers is a key objective for the group. The NRCSG has supported the work of the BRC and USDAW in issuing guidelines for retailers when tackling work place violence.
In relation to the Protection of Workers Private Members’ Bill, this has not made progress in Parliament. The Bill sought to create a specific offence of assaulting a person whose work brings them into face-to-face contact with members of the public. There is already as a wide range of offences that cover acts of violence against any person, including those who work with members of the public.
Tough penalties are already in place for assault offences. Relevant offences could include common assault, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm, harassment, as well as public order offences which criminalise threatening or abusive behaviour intended to harass, alarm or distress a person.
In addition, sentencing guidelines for assault offences state that offences should be considered to be aggravated if the offence is committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public. The independent Sentencing Council, which issues sentencing guidelines for courts, has made clear that this aggravating factor is broadly drafted to encompass those working in the retail sector.