More than three quarters of shop workers say abuse from customers has been worse during the pandemic, according to new research.
A survey by Usdaw, the shop workers’ union, found that 76 per cent of retail staff felt that incidents of violence, threats and abuse have been more prevalent during coronavirus.
Shop workers reported being threatened with knives, and having their vehicles damaged by disgruntled customers.
Coughed on, shoved and rammed with trollies
One retail employee involved in the study said, “Since the pandemic I’ve had abuse nearly every day, even coughed on twice,” while another claimed they had been “physically pushed, shoved, trolley rammed during panic buying.”
So far this year, 85 per cent of survey respondents have experienced verbal abuse, 57 per cent have been threatened by a customer, and nine per cent have been assaulted.
The research comes to light as Respect for Shopworkers Week is launched in the UK, and a petition calling for the government to introduce protective legislation for shop workers has received more than 70,000 signatures.
General secretary of Usdaw, Paddy Lillis, said that, “some people have responded to this appalling pandemic by abusing shopworkers.”
He continued, “At a time when we should all be working together to get through this national crisis, it is a disgrace that staff working to keep food on the shelves are being abused.
“Action to protect shopworkers is needed and that is why we have launched a petition, which now has over 70,000 signatures. We were deeply disappointed by the Government’s response to the petition, offering little more than sympathy, so we continue to campaign for the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a parliamentary debate.
“This is a hugely important issue for our members. Shop workers are saying loud and clear that enough is enough, abuse should never be just a part of the job. Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected, they deserve the protection of the law.”