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Closed petition Protect Retail Workers from Abuse, Threats and Violence.

Enact legislation to protect retail workers. This legislation must create a specific offence of abusing, threatening or assaulting a retail worker. The offence must carry a penalty that acts as a deterrent and makes clear that abuse of retail workers is unacceptable.

More details

Throughout the Coronavirus outbreak, retail workers have been spat at, threatened with infection of Coronavirus and physically assaulted. Since the start of the outbreak, the average retail worker has been assaulted, threatened or abused every 6.5 days, more than double the rate of incidents compared to 2019.

Key workers across retail have been undervalued for too long. We need to recognise the valuable contribution of these workers and ensure they are safe whilst undertaking essential work.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 7 June 2021

Watch the petition 'Protect Retail Workers from Abuse, Threats and Violence.' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 15 September 2020

The Government is not persuaded that a specific offence is needed as a wide range of offences already exist which cover assaults against any worker, including shop workers.

Read the response in full

Everyone should feel safe at work which is why assaults on shop workers, doing vital work for the country and the economy are simply unacceptable. The Government pays tribute to all shop workers who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic to keep shops stocked with essential items.

Although the Government is sympathetic to the motivations behind the petition, it remains unpersuaded of the need for a specific offence as there are already a wide range of offences which exist and which cover assaults against any worker, including shop workers and those selling age restricted items. Relevant offences include common assault, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm, harassment and other public order offences which criminalise threatening or abusive behaviour intended to harass, alarm or distress a person. All these offences already apply to people whose work brings them into contact with members of the public.

In April last year, the Home Office published a call for evidence - `Violence and abuse towards shop staff’ - to further understand the issue of violence and abuse towards shop workers, the measures which may help prevent these crimes and the extent to which existing legislation is being used to tackle them. The consultation concluded on 28 June 2019.

An overview of the responses to that call for evidence, showed there to be a general lack of faith in the way in which these crimes are dealt with either by the police, the shop worker’s employer or in response to shop workers themselves. This seemed to contribute to the view that the response to such crimes was often inadequate and was also a factor that led individuals to decide not to report further incidents. The Government believes that it is this issue that requires more urgent action rather than a change in the law.

The Government’s response to that call for evidence was published on 7 July 2020 and sets out plans to crack down on abuse and violence against shop workers. The steps, which are detailed in the Home Office’s response to the call for evidence (see - are designed to improve support for victims and ensure perpetrators face justice. They include working with the National Retail Crime Steering Group (NRCSG) on a best practice guide to support staff in reporting these crimes, strengthening and making full use of existing laws, and improving data sharing between businesses and the police.

The courts also have a statutory duty to follow sentencing guidelines. The current guidelines for assault offences specify that it is an aggravating factor for an offence to be committed against a person who works in the public sector or who is providing a service to the public, such as a shop worker. In 2019, the independent Sentencing Council for England and Wales provided additional advice on this factor in order to make clear that it could apply to those working in the private as well as the public sector. In all cases, therefore, the fact that an offence has been committed against a person serving the public will be considered an aggravating factor when passing sentence. In addition, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the Sentencing Council also published interim guidance in April that clarifies that, when sentencing assault offences relating to the transmission of Covid-19, the courts should treat this as meriting a more severe sentence.

Ministry of Justice

Share your experiences of violence and abuse towards retail workers

Have you experienced violence or abuse working in retail? Do you know someone who has?

A group of MPs called the Home Affairs Committee is investigating violence and abuse towards retail workers and would like to hear about your experiences.

You can share your experiences here:

You can find out more about the Committee's work on this issue here:

They’d like to hear from you by 15 January. Your answers will help them to understand the issues people are facing and what questions MPs need to ask the Government.

They might publish some or all of your responses, or read them out when they’re asking questions in a public Committee meeting or in the House of Commons. So please don’t share any personal information that you don’t want to be public.

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter @CommonsHomeAffs or on their website:

### What is the Home Affairs Committee?

The Home Affairs Committee looks at and questions how the Government Department for Home Affairs:

· is run
· spends money
· decides on its policies

It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:

When will the petition I signed be debated?

The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee will consider this petition for a debate in the new year. We'll let you know as soon as this happens.

MPs investigate violence and abuse against retail workers

The Home Affairs Committee (a group of MPs who look into issues relating to immigration, security and policing) has published a report which calls for a stronger policing response to tackle violence and abuse against shop workers, and the creation of a new criminal offence of assaulting a shop worker.

Read the Committee's press release:

The Committee found that there has been a "shocking" increase in such abuse in recent years, including during the covid-19 pandemic, and that urgent improvements were needed in reporting and responding to retail crime. It argued a new criminal offence would send a powerful message that assaults on retail workers will not be tolerated, and urged the Government to consult urgently on what behaviour a new offence of this kind could include.

The Committee also called for actions including improved recording of violence against shop workers, and an expansion of neighbourhood policing teams.

Read the report (HTML):

Read the report (PDF):
The Government will respond to the Committee's report in the coming weeks.

What is the Home Affairs Committee?

The Home Affairs Committee examines the work of the Home Office. It looks at government policy, spending and the law in areas including immigration, security and policing. It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

Find out more on their website:

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter:

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:

Government responds to Home Affairs Committee's 'Violence and abuse towards retail workers' report

On 9 September, the Government's response to the Home Affairs Committee's report on 'Violence and abuse towards retail workers' was published.

In their report, published in June 2021, the Home Affairs Committee called for a stronger police response, better support from employers, and for Government to consult on a new criminal offence to protect retail workers.

Read the Government's response:
Read the Home Affairs Committee's report:

What is the Home Affairs Committee?

The Home Affairs Committee is a cross-party group of MPs who are responsible for scrutinising the work of the Home Office and its associated bodies. It examines government policy, spending and the law in areas including immigration, security and policing.

Follow the Home Affairs Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work:

MPs debate violence and abuse towards the retail workforce

On Tuesday 5 December, MPs took part in a Westminster Hall debate on violence and abuse towards the retail workforce. The debate was led by Liz Twist MP, and the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, Chris Philp MP responded to the debate on behalf of the Government.

What is a Westminster Hall debate?

Westminster Hall is the second chamber of the House of Commons. Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local and national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Westminster Hall debates are general debates that do not end in a vote.

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