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In the News

Should shop workers be protected against assault in a new law?

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

5th February 2024

There have been calls to provide extra protection for shop workers in England and Wales from attacks of violence whilst at work. This would go further than the basic non-fatal offences such as assault or battery. This would follow the legislation brought in in Scotland which came into force in 2021 creating a specific offence to assault, threaten or abuse another person who is a retail worker, and, who is engaged, at the time, in retail work.

Introduced by MSP Daniel Johnson, of Scottish Labour it was backed unanimously by Scottish MPs. It also provides protection to retail workers where they are enforcing the law in relation to the sale of age restricted product, such as alcohol or tobacco, and any abuse received whilst doing this is classed as an aggravating feature of the offence.

Providing protection for this sector of the workforce this would be similar to the specific offence of assault on an emergency worker already in force in England and Wales, but here an uplift in sentencing is applied to denote the seriousness of the situation.

It has been seen that retail workers do need to be afforded this extra level of protection as the rates of assaults and abusive behaviour toward those working in retail have been seen to be increasing by 50% from the year ending November 2023, when compared to the previous twelve-month period.

Having such legislation in England and Wales would provide a deterrence to would-be offenders and allow for proper figures to be gathered. It is being supported by the shopworkers union USDAW, as well as being backed by Chief Executive of Aldi.

Comprehension Questions

  1. 1. Why, according to the text, is the protection of shop workers needed?
  2. 2. What action, according to the text, have the courts in England done so far to address the protection of shop workers?
  3. 3. What does the Scottish legislation provide protection against?
  4. 4. What other categories of workers are provided special protection in the law?
  5. 5. Should legislation to protect retail workers come into force?

Gemma Shepherd-Etchells

Gemma is an experienced Law teacher and examiner.

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