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Campaign launched to protect ‘abused’ retail employers

Abuse aimed at shop workers unlikely to recede in the foreseeable future, with two thirds advising both verbal and physical assaults are worsening.

A recent survey conducted by the Retail Trust (published on 8 November 2022) revealed that one in three retail staff had been shouted at, spat on, threatened or hit every week with two thirds advising that both verbal and physical assaults are worsening as the cost of living crisis takes hold.

Despite a worsening situation, as many as one in four of “abused” employees do not report incidents for a variety of reasons which include the frustration that no effective action would be taken.

Further findings

This survey of 1,020 retail employees allowed responses to be submitted anonymously and was conducted during September and October 2022.

  • 84% of respondents reported that they had been verbally assaulted with almost one third (31%) stating that they had been threatened with violence.
  • 68% said they felt stressed and anxious about going to work with more than half that number (41%) having considered quitting their jobs.

The new campaign to protect the wellbeing of the UK’s three million retail workers is supported by both the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the shop workers’ main union, USDAW. Paddy Lillis, USDAW’s general secretary, welcomed the campaign, commenting: “We are saying loud and clear that abuse is not part of the job”.

This echoes similar remarks made by Chris Brook-Carter, the chief executive of the Retail Trust: “Being verbally or physically attacked should never be part of anyone’s job….it’s almost becoming normalised”.

The survey provides further evidence of worsening of abuse suffered by retail employees which was highlighted in a survey conducted by the British Retail Consortium earlier this year. That larger scale survey of 12,000 respondents revealed that an average of 1300 incidents of abuse occurred each day.

Is the cost of living crisis to blame?

A separate YouGov poll of the general public (some of whom admitted having abused retail employees) blamed “not enough staff” (63%) “rising prices” (62%) and “items out of stock” (55%) as the main sources of their frustration. 

Almost half of respondents (47%) admitted to getting annoyed with either a shop worker or a delivery driver in the last 12 months with 19 admitting to having raised their voice or losing their temper.


We have in previous articles 'Retail crime survey concern re workplace violence' and 'Workplace violence NHS guidance re shoplifting incidents' highlighted the scale of abuse, both verbal and physical directed at retail employees and the steps which employers should take to protect workers.

What is clear from this Retail Trust survey is that the rising levels of abuse found by the earlier British Retail Crime Survey can no longer be explained by the need on the part of retailers to manage mask wearing or social distancing.

Whilst substance addiction and underage drinking levels will continue to feature strongly as the underlying causes of abuse, the YouGov poll highlights that, for many, rising prices will act as a trigger. With inflation and energy costs likely to remain high for the short to medium term, the abuse suffered by shop workers is unlikely to recede in the foreseeable future.

Should you wish to discuss this article further or any of the points raised with regards to workplace violence, then please contact our expert team of occupational disease solicitors today.

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