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Shop-worker abuse hits new heights amid Coronavirus pandemic

Gaelle Walker
16 November 2020

The abuse of retail staff has been worse than ever during the Coronavirus pandemic, with three-quarters of shopworkers, including those in the fashion and beauty sectors, reporting higher than normal levels of abuse, new findings from the shopworkers union Usdaw shows.

The findings come at the start of the 2020 Respect for Shopworkers Week (16 to 22 November 2020)

So far this year, 85% of shopworkers say they have experienced verbal abuse, 57% have been threatened by a customer and 9% have been assaulted, interim results from Usdaw’s annual survey into retail staff abuse show.

In fashion and beauty stores, new Coronavirus policies governing the trying on of new clothes and returning items are the key flashpoints for staff abuse, Usdaw told TheIndustry.Fashion.

Workers in fashion stores have reported a wide rangeof customer abuse from swearing and aggressive behaviour to physical threats.

Describing her experience, one shop assistant said: “Irate customers have shouted at me and used offensive language when I have been unable to help them with requests. Most of these have been with regards to returning items with no proof of purchase.”

Another retail worker described how she commonly experienced abuse when “deterring shoplifters.

"However, now it also happens regularly when asking customers to queue or not try stock on.”

A number of other shop workers also said that “customers not accepting refund policy,” was now a common flashpoint.

Usdaw is using the annual Respect for Shopworkers Week to promote the parliamentary petition calling on the government to legislate to protect shopworkers.

The petition currently has over 70,000 signatures but needs 100,000 in order to trigger a parliamentary debate.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Yet another Usdaw survey shows that some people have responded to this appalling pandemic by abusing shopworkers.

“This is a hugely important issue for our members. Shopworkers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be just a part of the job.

“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”

The petition can be signed at:

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