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Changing the law to keep our shopfloor colleagues safe

Jason Tarry, CEO Tesco UK & ROI

Thanks to the support of Tesco colleagues, on 7th June, Parliament will debate the protection of shopworkers from abuse, threats and violence after the petition, submitted by USDAW, received more than 100,000 signatories.

Every day our colleagues, along with hundreds of other retail workers, face abuse, threats of violence and are even assaulted, simply for doing their jobs. This is not acceptable. Our stores should be safe places to work and shop.

In the last three months (March/April/May 2021), 6962 incidents of abuse towards our colleagues, were reported.

This compares with 5470 in March/April/May in 2020 and 4876 in March/April/May 2019 – a 27% increase from the same period in 2020 and a 43% increase from the same period in 2019.

While the debate is important in raising awareness of the issue, there is an opportunity to change the law that will increase the protection of shopworkers as they carry out their daily tasks.

Crucially, in the weeks ahead, members of Parliament will be debating an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would mean Tesco store colleagues, along with all retail workers, would be protected from this violence and abuse. We are asking our colleagues to write to their MPs to show support for this amendment to help make it a specific offence.

We already know that these protections can be introduced. Earlier this year, Scottish Parliament passed a Bill that enshrined protections for shopworkers in law and makes it a specific offence to assault, abuse or threaten retail staff. This sets a clear precedence for Members of Parliament debating the current Bill, and we hope that through supporting an amendment, we can extend these protections to our store colleagues in England and Wales.

Over the last 12 months, we have invested in new equipment to keep colleagues safe, including:

  • Body-worn cameras for relevant shop floor and security colleagues being rolled out to all stores  
  • Safety screens in the most vulnerable convenience stores and 24-hour petrol station kiosks to protect colleagues working at the checkouts  
  • Headsets introduced into all convenience stores with trials being run in large stores 
  • Remote-control door access system introduced into all convenience stores that gives colleagues the ability to control access into stores at times when assaults are most likely to occur early in the morning or late at night

These measures are helping, but by themselves are not enough. We need a change in the law to make those contemplating abuse of a shop worker think twice.

Parliament has the opportunity to act now to protect those who worked tirelessly to feed the nation and keep customers safe throughout the pandemic.

Here’s what just two of our colleagues have been saying about abuse directed towards colleagues in their stores:

Louise, Store Manager, New Ollerton Superstore

It is a terrible fact to admit but my colleagues suffer abuse daily from members of the public, which is unacceptable and needs to change.

There does not seem to be any consequence for this sort of behaviour which unfortunately means it becomes the norm within our industry and this should definitely not be the case.

The company does provide us with equipment and coaching which supports us in tackling these incidents, but this does not stop the problem which we are faced with on a daily basis. A change in the law would be hugely welcomed by everyone who works within the retail industry and would not only make our stores a safer place to work but a safer place to shop for our valued customers.

Steph, Store Manager, Prescot St Express, Liverpool

The last year has been challenging for colleagues. They have faced lots of abuse, especially in a morning before alcohol is available. This has grown throughout Covid and caused more desperation.

In the last year, people have become a lot more volatile – especially when the no mask no entry policy came into effect, colleagues were subjected to lots of abuse, both verbal and sometimes physical. 

I think If the law was changed, the colleagues would feel like they were being taken more seriously & I would feel more supported by the police.

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