Labour MSP plans new Bill to protect shopworkers

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A new bid to protect shop staff from assault and abuse has been launched after attacks on retail workers reached a 10 year high.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson hopes to bring forward a Member’s Bill to Holyrood which would create new offences specifically dealing with violence and abuse of shop workers – and others selling age restricted products, such as bar staff.

He has now launched a consultation on the plans, and is urging both workers and customers to have their say.

The Edinburgh Southern MSP spoke out about the problem as he visited a ScotMid store in the capital.

Mr Johnson said: “Abuse against shop workers is on the rise, with recent statistics showing it at a ten-year high in Scotland.

“Nobody arriving at their work should expect to face abuse or even assault in their day, yet that is the unfortunate reality for many working in retail.

“As it stands, the law simply doesn’t offer sufficient protection to those workers. My proposed law would change that.”

He said he had brought forward the proposals – which have already been backed by some retailers and trade unions including Usdaw – because “for too many people, violence and abuse at work has become just ‘part of the job’.”

The Labour MSP said: “I want to bring forward a bill that ensures crimes against workers are taken seriously, that they receive better protection from the law, that recognises their responsibilities and that provides a clear and lower threshold at which obstructive, abusive or threatening behaviour is considered a crime and can be prosecuted.

“This is particularly the case for retail workers, bar and pub staff, who all have to challenge customers for proof of age.

“The law means that these workers must check people’s ages, but the evidence shows that all too frequently, this can lead to unacceptable levels of abuse and violence.”

Usdaw said its analysis shows that 70% of shopworkers in Scotland were verbally abused and 42% were threatened over the last year.

Scottish divisional officer Stewart Forrest said urgent action is required.

He stated: “Shopworkers are on the frontline of policing the law on the sale of alcohol, knives, glue and acid. Parliament has given shopworkers the responsibility to police those laws, so parliament should provide shopworkers with the necessary protect.

“Retail staff have a crucial role in our communities and that role must be valued and respected.”

Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief executive Pete Cheema said: “Daniel’s proposed legislation represents a unique – perhaps a once-in-a-generation – opportunity to create a safer retail environment for staff and customers.

“We are delighted to be supporting the consultation and would urge businesses, trade associations and communities to respond positively to it.”

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