Sheffield Hallam MP calls for protection of shop workers

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(LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake has called on the government to bring a dedicated criminal offence to protect shop workers after new figures suggest that the problem is getting worse.

Slamming the incident of Clapham Asda workers being punched, kicked, and beaten by customers in the store earlier this year, Blake wrote in Morning Star that the “brutal” scenes represent “a growing trend of physical and verbal abuse directed at front-line workers” that needs addressing law.

Pointing out that before the outbreak, the 2020 Crime Report found that 83 per cent of people in the convenience store sector have been subjected to verbal abuse, the Labour politician wrote that “its time to stop the epidemic of violence and back workers struggling for greater legal protections in their workplace”.

Blake informed that on Wednesday (15), she will “bring a motion to Parliament, supported by trade unions from across a variety of sectors and workplaces, the Co-operative Party, and the Institute of Customer Service, to make verbal or physical abuse of all front-line workers a criminal offence”.

Creating a new offence would encourage law enforcement to proactively investigate and support complaints against perpetrators, she wrote.

Usdaw’s latest survey, published earlier this year, found that almost nine in 10 of those who participated were verbally abused in 2020.

Sixty per cent reported threats of physical violence and 9 per cent said they had been physically assaulted. Seventy-five per cent reported that levels of abuse increased during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the government continues to hold the stance that no extra law or dedicated offence is in need for protection of shop workers but has been claiming that they will increase police presence. The Home Office says it’s putting 20,000 extra police officers into communities to cut crime and in April had launched a #ShopKind campaign.