662 words approx. 3 minutes to read

Every day, more than 250 retail workers face violence, just for doing their jobs. Six of those incidents will involve a knife, and in two a gun. For dozens of others, verbal abuse, intimidation and threats are a daily occurrence. It’s becoming considered ‘just part of the job’. It shouldn’t be.

No one should face violence at work

In my own constituency of Nottingham North, we have three Co-op Food stores, on Arnold Road, Beckhampton Road and Bracebridge Drive, and I’m aware of several instances of this kind of crime. In one incident, a shoplifter threw food at the manager before making threatening gestures with a knife. On another occasion, a colleague was verbally abused, and the police called, after a customer was ID’d when buying a can of Red Bull.

These kinds of incidents will be familiar to all too many Co-op colleagues. It is right that the Co-op is taking this issue seriously and investing more resources on crime prevention in stores. But there is more we can all do, and a change in the law could play a significant part in turning the tide.

From alcohol and cigarettes to knives and acid, there are now more than 50 types of products that are restricted by law. The single biggest instance of attacks is when shop workers enforce these laws by challenging and verifying the age of those who want to buy age-restricted products, or when refusing to sell alcohol to customers who are drunk.

Nobody should face violence at work, and we have a particular responsibility to protect those who put themselves on the line to enforce the law. Unsurprisingly, the public overwhelmingly agree. I’ve obtained polling, commissioned by the Co-operative Party and undertaken by Populus, in which 85% of the public support the idea that the government owes a ‘duty of care’ to shop workers who enforce age restrictions on our behalf.

Employers, staff and the wider public understand the need for action to secure stronger protections for shop workers and support tougher penalties against those who assault or threaten them. That’s why over the next few weeks I and other MPs will be working in Parliament to call for new laws to protect shop workers. Find out more about how you can play your part.

This week I will be speaking in the House of Commons, to make the case for attacks on retail staff at work to be treated in court as ‘aggravated’ assaults. This would make offenders liable to a longer prison sentence, reflecting the fact that their victim was, at the time of the assault, acting in the public interest. It is a protection that already applies to doctors and other NHS staff.

Our next opportunity for a change in the law will come a week later, when MPs will vote on the Offensive Weapons Bill, which introduces age restrictions on the sale of acid and other corrosive substances. I and other Labour & Co-operative MPs will be backing an amendment from David Hanson MP, which is supported by a range of organisations including USDAW, which makes obstructing or threatening shop staff while doing their jobs an offence, with fines of up to £2,500.

Help change the law, tell your MP to vote

To win that vote, we need the support of MPs from all parties. I’m asking you to support our campaign for a change in the law making it an offence to assault, threaten or abuse a shop worker who is preventing an illegal sale of acid or knives.

Ask your MP to vote for new clause 1 of the Offensive Weapons Bill.

Parliament has made shop workers – often working anti-social hours with limited support – responsible for policing the sale of alcohol, knives, glue and now acid at the checkout. It is an important civic responsibility that too often goes unrecognised.

MPs can say thank you in the best way possible by voting for changes in the law to give them the protection they deserve

Alex Norris MP
Member of Parliament, Nottingham North

Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. How is a headset going to stop someone coming at you with a knife etc and if your onevon one and the other person iscout the back getting a delivery in by tgectime tgey get to you it could be to late.tge shops need staff not headsets.

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  2. Find out more about how we’re reducing risk in-store in Chris Whitfield’s blog post here: https://coop.uk/2yuM34A ^Jordan

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  3. Our store has had its fair share of robberies …ram raid …axe attack …till snatch …but we are in stores when this happens …customers are also there when this happens …our store is now renowned for shoplifters …violence …and even a stabbing where the store had to close …for a day …we are working one on one …when can we just go to work not fearing an attack on ourselves or our customers

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  4. We can change the law which will go a long way….. but Co-op you really need to invest in having more team members in our stores to combat what our team see and put up with on a daily basis….. even having at least 3-5 on shift would be a start….it’s getting poor out there and the store and the team are feeling it…. making so much profit as the company’s comes back from being in a bad way…. invest in the shops and the team that’s the difference….

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  5. We get robbed every day staff thy they best but known drug addition is killing are shop

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  6. It shouldn’t be the “norm” at all RP, that’s why we’re backing Alex and David ahead of Monday’s vote ^Jordan

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  7. I live in essex and the amount of abuse and threats we receive probably along with the rest of the country is ridiculous. I was threatened by a teenager recently who said he was going to “shank” me when I challenged him about alcohol then refused to leave the store becoming exceptionally aggressive. This is becoming the “norm” now on a day to day basis.

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  8. Can we have a debate to end 1 on 1 shifts, as in these instances if there is no security it is a lot more intimidating if we are threatened.

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  9. It’s a long time since I was a magistrate, but I think the law already covers shopworkers subject to violence e.g GBH, ABH. I don’t in general favour extensions of the law to apply to particular groups. We should all be protected. What about customers who might be caught up in an incident? Would a different law apply to them because they are not at work? However, violence and abuse have become so common in shops that perhaps some strengthening of the law is necessary e.g. the suggestion re “aggravated” assaults. We do seem to be wringing our hands whilst the situation gets worse.

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    • I agree David. This kind of law will make no difference at all on the ground. If a hooligan wants to cause trouble in a shop they will not pause for one moment and think about the consequences under the present law, never mind a new law as proposed.
      I think that we have an MP here who is desperate to be seen to be doing something, anything. Except thinking carefully about the problem.

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  10. Great to see local MPs taking this issue seriously and fighting our corner!

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. Yes I believe it should become law

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