VIOLENCE against shopworkers is on the rise, and Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP, Neale Hanvey, feels that everything needs to be done to ensure local people working in shops and restaurants feel safe.

Research from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) finds that one in six shopworkers suffer abuse on every shift, and almost a third have been threatened by a customer and we must do more to protect shop and restaurant workers who have a right to feel safe at work.

That is the message of Neale Hanvey, who has taken action by signing the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge, vowing to stand with retail staff and support legislation to better protect shopworkers from violence and abuse.

Recognising the serious impact that such crimes have on staff, their colleagues, and their families, Mr Hanvey is calling for legislation at Westminster and urging colleagues in Holyrood to support similar moves.

The retail industry spends over £1.2 billion each year on crime prevention, yet, every day, there are over 400 incidents of violence and abuse against retail staff. Common triggers include challenging shoplifters, enforcing age restricted sales and implementing social distancing and other coronavirus safety measures.

To reduce the threat to shopworkers, the Scottish Government has given clear guidance to the retail sector that shopworkers should not be expected to enforce coronavirus restrictions such as the wearing of facemasks.

The BRC pledge calls for tougher penalties for attacks on shopworkers through the creation of a specific criminal offence.

A Member’s Bill is currently being discussed at Holyrood, proposed by Daniel Johnson MSP and supported by MSPs from every party.

Neale Hanvey MP said this week: “It’s terrible that violence against shopworkers – keyworkers, that is – has been on the rise. I’m keen to do anything I can to put a stop to it, that’s why I’ve put my name to the BRC’s Shopworkers’ Protection Pledge.

“Clapping every Thursday night for keyworkers might have passed, but our respect for them has not changed. These are folk who selflessly put themselves on the frontline during the height of the pandemic to make sure we all had access to necessities.

“There is an opportunity to create good out of bad, to build a lasting legacy for shop and restaurant workers.

"One where we reassess how we value certain jobs, where we make sure everyone is safe and appreciated at work, and where abusive customers are held accountable for their actions.“That’s why I’ll be supporting legislation at Westminster and I urge colleagues in Holyrood to support similar measures.”

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Every day, hundreds of hardworking retail staff are subjected to violence or abuse in their place of work. "These incidents leave physical and emotional scars, and affect not only the victim, but also their families, colleagues, and communities. Sadly, existing law, meant to protect these workers, is not fit for purpose, and many of these heinous crimes continue to go unpunished.

“We are calling on MPs from all parties to come together and sign the Shopworkers Protection Pledge. On behalf of the three million people who work in retail; their families and their communities, there is one simple message: doing nothing is not an option.”