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BRC urges people to “stick to the rules” and safeguard shopworkers ahead of 12 April reopening

Tom Bottomley
08 April 2021

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Usdaw are urging shoppers to “stick to the rules” and play their part in keeping shop workers safe, to help ensure there is no risk to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown when shops start to reopen on 12 April, 2021.

The government has recently published its updated safety guidance ahead of reopening which emphasises that all customers need to continue to follow social distancing rules, shop alone or in small groups, queue and follow one-way signs where necessary, follow hygiene rules and wear a face covering unless they have an exemption.

The pandemic has seen a shocking rise in violence and abuse against shopworkers, with incidents often occurring when staff encourage customers to follow the rules. Shopworkers have been coughed on, attacked and threatened just for doing their job, and the situation has been “getting worse.”

British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson said:“Retailers are ready and are looking forward to welcoming people back into stores. Hopefully, things will start to get back to normal soon, but for now we need to be cautious and to look out for each other.

“We all need to play our part to keep ourselves, our fellow customers, and hardworking retail colleagues safe, so we are asking people to stick to the rules and not to overreact if someone asks you to wear a face covering or follow safety instructions when you’re out shopping. The recent surge in violence against shopworkers must end.”

Over 65 retail CEOs recently wrote to the Prime Minister calling for greater protection for shopworkers. Late last year, the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the issue the day after Usdaw secured over 104,000 signatures on a "protect shopworkers" petition. In January, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for a ground-breaking new law to protect shopworkers.

The final results of Usdaw’s 2020 survey of 2,729 shopworkers across the UK found that 88% experienced verbal abuse, 60% were threatened by a customer, 9% were assaulted and 79% of shopworkers say abuse was worse last year.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, commented: “The reopening of stores on Monday offers a lifeline for many retailers, which helps to safeguard jobs, but the virus is still out there.

“Regrettably, throughout this appalling pandemic, incidents of abuse towards shopworkers doubled. It should never be just a part of the job and shopworkers must be respected, and we need a ‘protection of shopworkers’ law. It has been a terrible year, with Usdaw’s survey finding that nearly 90% of shopworkers suffered abuse, and Covid safety measures have now become the significant flashpoints. When retailers and the shopworkers’ trade union jointly call for legislation, it is time for the government to listen and take retail crime seriously.”

Retailers have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on measures designed to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, including safety glass, queue management systems, social distancing signage, better ventilation, and more frequent cleaning. These measures have been updated in accordance with the latest government guidance, which now addresses issues such as testing of staff, use of fitting rooms, and safe use of air conditioning and ventilation.

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