Protection of Retail Workers Debate

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Department: Home Office

Protection of Retail Workers

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Monday 7th June 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
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Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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As a former retail worker myself, I very much wanted to participate in the debate, because I know first-hand how important it is that those working in retail feel safe and protected while doing their jobs. The vast majority of those whom retail workers come into contact with are polite and reasonable, but it only takes one incident of abuse or violence to leave a worker in the retail industry feeling distressed, afraid, shaken and threatened as they go about their job.

The petition calls on the UK Government to protect workers from abuse, threats and violence. Of course, the Minister will be aware that the Scottish Parliament has already passed the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act 2021, which will come into force very soon. It creates an offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing retail workers and will provide statutory aggravation of that offence where the retail worker is enforcing a statutory age restriction. As someone who spent almost a decade working in betting shops, I absolutely appreciate the value of that protection, and I know that other workers delivering age-restricted services will too. Scotland is leading the way, and I urge the Minister to study that legislation closely, as it gives greater protection under the law to retail workers in this field. The British Retail Consortium and more than 65 chief executives have called on the UK Government to follow Scotland’s lead.

In addition, the Scottish Government have launched a new awareness-raising campaign, delivered by Crimestoppers, Fearless and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, highlighting the impact of abuse, threats and violence on retail staff. We know that threats toward and abuse of retail workers have increased as a result of covid safety measures. Retail workers are on the frontline, trying to ensure that customers comply with covid safety measures on their premises; requesting ID when age-restricted products are sought by customers; and having to confront those who seek to shoplift. They have demanding jobs and too often do not get the credit or, indeed, the pay that they should.

I hope the Minister will seriously reflect on what he has heard in the debate and will support specific legal protection for our retail workers, who have served us so well during the difficult period of the pandemic, as they have always done. They deserve our support and our thanks. It is time for the Government to catch up with the Scottish Government and do more to support our retail workers.