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Violence in retail – an update on legislative action
Keoghs has previously highlighted the issue of violence towards retail staff; the hidden danger of working in this sector. Despite the heroic efforts of staff to keep the country going during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue has been getting worse.
Although the Government ran a public call for evidence on this issue in 2019, a legislative change was not forthcoming, with an outline plan for guidance, support and understanding being issued instead.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic brought the issue back up the agenda, with the powerful Home Affairs Select Committee – a grouping of MPs mandated to review and analyse the work of the Home Office – launching an inquiry into the issue.
A consultation ran until 22 January this year, and the Committee has now published its report and recommendations to the Government, which focus on a variety of key areas:
- The Committee outlines the sheer scale of the issue, states that it cannot become the norm, and references the importance of Covid-19 in exacerbating the issue
- It also sets out some criticism of the lack of clarity on government guidelines in relation to mask wearing and social distancing, and calls for clearer collaboration with the retail industry in the future, should new public health restrictions be required.
- Although the Committee welcomes guidance for retail workers on when to utilise emergency numbers when seeking a police response, they deemed the level of guidance given to be insufficient
- The Committee also highlights insufficient efforts from the Home Office, which will not deliver the sustained change required
- It calls on Police and Crime Commissioners to make action on violence and abuse towards retail workers a priority.
The Role of Employers
- The Committee highlights that retail workers are not getting the support that they require from employers, and that employers could do more to ban repeat offenders or enable their employees to access counselling or training
- There is an added vulnerability of workers in small local stores, and the committee recommends that local authorities work with police and retailers in such areas to tackle security issues.
The legal framework
- Overall, the committee paints a picture of a distinct lack of urgency from government in tackling this issue
- It states that the situation for retail workers shows that the current framework is failing to protect them from abuse, nor does it provide justice or act as a deterrent for offenders.
Given the statutory importance of Parliamentary committees, the Government is mandated to respond to the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee within a set time frame.
This means that the Home Affairs Committee anticipates a government response by the 29 August. Within this response, the Government is likely to review each of the recommendations and conclusions of the committee’s report in detail and highlight where it is taking action and present any counter arguments.
The tone and any promises made in the response should tell us a great deal about the level of importance with which the Government views this issue, and their intentions for any next steps.
Keoghs will be reviewing the Government’s response when published and ensure you are up to date with the latest information and the timeline for further action.