I welcome the moves by the Home Office Minister, Victoria Atkins MP, to undertake a review of attacks on shopworkers.
The review was agreed following David Hanson MP’s amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill. Mr Hanson tabled an amendment to the Bill to ensure that retail staff who were checking the age of customers purchasing bladed items or corrosive substances would be protected by a new aggravated offence. During the debate on the new amendment, David Hanson MP said:
“Under this Bill, in the case of refusal to sell corrosive products and knives, it will not be the police or the security services, police community support officers or police and crime commissioners, or the local council or trading standards who are at the frontline in upholding the legislation that we hope the House will pass this evening. It will be the individual shop staff—often alone; often, perhaps, not much older than some of the people who are trying to buy these products—who are at the frontline of that challenge.”
The full debate can be accessed at: http://bit.ly/2S8PdH6
The Minister agreed to meet with a roundtable of MPs, charities, trade unions and business groups to discuss how to progress this issue. David Hanson MP withdrew the amendment to facilitate this.
Following the meeting of the 11 December 2018, the Minister wrote to all involved to announce the Home Office would:
• A call for evidence on violence and abuse towards shop workers to help ensure we fully understand this issue and consider all options for addressing it;
• Funding for the sector to run targeted communications activity to raise awareness of the existing legislation in place to protect shop workers; and
• Refreshing the work of the National Retail Crime Steering Group on violent crime. I intend to discuss this work at an extraordinary meeting of the Group I will chair on 7 February. That meeting will focus exclusively on violence and abuse toward shop workers.
I will continue to work with key stakeholders to ensure that timescales are not overrun and the evidence collected can be utilised to inform the future direction of legislation.
Shopworkers should have protections in law against attacks in the workplace. It is clearly wrong that retail staff are on the frontline when it comes to policing our age-related sales, but have no protection in law against attacks.
By working with Usdaw – the shopworkers trade union, the Co-Op and retailers we have been able to put forward proposals that are practical and have the support of shopworkers, retailers and the public. The Government need to take action now.
I cautiously welcome the proposals put forward by the Home Office as they are a step in the right direction. A review will demonstrate that the majority of people in the retail sector want a change in the law so that staff are protected against verbal and physical violence.
The Minister now needs to set out what the timeframe is for this review is and when the minister will provide a detailed response. We must not allow this project to lose momentum and for us to miss the opportunity of protecting shopworkers from violence. Everyone should have freedom from fear at work.