Requests for retail staff to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing rules creating a flashpoint for abuse

    Supermarket reports 140% rise in violence against staff

      • Sector News
    • 19.01.21

    Thousands of violent incidents against shop staff are being reported every week as retailers try to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing rules.

    Retail workers’ union Usdaw said social distancing enforcement is now the top cause of attacks and aggression against workers, whereas before the pandemic it was shoplifting.

    Almost one in 10 shop staff say they have been assaulted, more than half have been threatened and almost 90 percent have been verbally abused.

    Chief Executive of Co-op, Jo Whitfield, said the new demands for staff to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing have created a major flashpoint for “abuse, threats and violence”.

    In the last year, the Co-op has recorded a 140% increase in crime, with more than 200,000 cases including staff being spat at and threatened just because they’ve asked customers to respect social distancing. 

    Whitfield said supermarkets should not be expected to make customers cover-up as this should be the responsibility of the police force.

    Retail Gazette: Shopworkers face abuse from non-mask wearers as crime rises 140%, Co-op says
    BBC: Covid: Morrisons and Sainsbury's ban maskless shoppers

    Maybo perspective

    • Retail workers have experienced increasing levels of violence in recent years and ‘COVID Conflict’ has taken this to new heights in shops and supermarkets.
    • There is only so much retail workers can be expected to do and care is needed even when simply asking a customer to comply with government restrictions as situations can escalate quickly.
    • A multi-strategy approach is required which is why we support retail safety schemes working with employers, local authorities and the Police.
    • Maybo training programmes equip staff to deal with potential conflict flashpoints, such as restrictions, at the level expected for their role.
    • Sales assistants play a key role in positive communication and need to recognise when to hand over to a supervisor or security officer (where present). It is therefore important that supervisors, managers and security professionals receive enhanced training.

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