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New guidance issued for tackling violence against shop staff

Retail plays a central part in community life, providing important goods and services to consumers, but sadly retailers often experience crime and antisocial behaviour.

In fact, violence and abuse against shop staff in the UK is a growing problem, according to recent figures published by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The country's retail sector, which employs nearly three million people, is identified as a vital contributor to the economy and to the regeneration of deprived areas.

But according to the BRC's Annual Retail Crime Survey, more than 35,000 staff suffered physical or verbal abuse or threats over the 2010/11 period.

For every 1,000 employees there were 26 incidents, an increase of 83 per cent on 2010.

This rise was chiefly in verbal abuse but retail robberies also rose by 20 per cent on the previous year.

In Olympic year, the body has issued new best practice guidelines to help retailers implement effective policies to help tackle violence towards, and abuse of, retail workers.

Violence and abuse towards retail employees has a knock-on effect on wellbeing, employee churn and productivity. According to the BRC, in areas where there is a heightened fear of violence and intimidation, retailers report a greater turnover of staff and higher incidents of sickness and absence.

Unfortunately, there is a perception that abuse is 'part of the job'.

The new guidelines, Tackling Violence Against Staff, recommend a range of steps retailers can take to keep their staff safe.

These include having clear policies against violence and abuse, robust store-based risk assessments, appropriate store layout, security and preventative measures, good staff training and reporting procedures and providing support for staff after incidents.

The BRC said although there are a number of guidelines in its document, they are often simple and cost little to implement.

Conflict management

It is hoped the new guidelines will encourage greater reporting of incidents by outlining good practice examples of the support provided to retail employees facing violence and abuse in the workplace.

"Retailers invest considerable resources in protecting their workers, stock and property," said Catherine Bowen, the British Retail Consortium's head of crime.

"Protecting staff from violence means taking many factors into account, from the positioning of in-store CCTV to how those who do carry out attacks are prosecuted. Companies are doing a lot to prevent trouble occurring in the first place, for example by giving customer service staff training in how to avoid conflict."

Usdaw, the shopworkers' union, welcomed the new guidelines, which build on its own Freedom From Fear campaign.

John Hannett, Usdaw general secretary, said: "The BRC's support for the Union's Freedom from Fear campaign has been very helpful. Working together we have seen a significant reduction in serious assaults in the last five years.

"However we share the BRC's concern that reports of threats and verbal abuse have escalated and the rise in robberies over the last year shows that there is no room for complacency."

Further reading

BRC press release

Tackling Violence Against Shop Staff guidelinesADNFCR-2134-ID-801374960-ADNFCR