Shopworkers’ safety in doubt over new ‘flashpoint’ laws

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Usdaw is concerned the sale of fireworks for bonfire night could prompt attacks on staff after new laws came into place to ban the supply of fireworks to under-18s.

The laws – which apply only in Scotland – are a sensible measure but are a ‘minefield’ for retail workers, said Tracy Gilbert Usdaw regional officer.

“Asking for age identification can lead to abuse from frustrated and angry customers and a refusal of a sale can be a real flashpoint,” she said. “Many of our members feel they are damned if they ask for ID and damned if they don't,” she said.

In Scotland new laws are set to come into place on 10 October to ban the supply of fireworks to under-18s. Photograph: Flickr / Epic Fireworks

In Scotland a new offence was introduced in 2021 making it a crime to assault, threaten or abuse a shopworker. Punishment can result in a fine with penalties escalating to a prison sentence.

Usdaw, which campaigned for the law, said that shopkeepers now need to do more to promote awareness of it and how workers can make use of it.

“We still need employers to make it easier for staff to report attacks and abuse, highlight the legislation to improve confidence, backed up with training, and promote the importance of reporting all incidents,” said Gilbert.

In the UK more widely, reports have surfaced that police are preparing for an increase in shoplifting, burglary and vehicle theft this winter. A Times newspaper article said that the Chairman of Tesco was boosting security given concerns that crime could rise due to the cost of living.

In a comment piece for legal insight website Lexology, Jim Byard at Weightmans LLP, said that: “The impending austerity which will be felt by many will only add upward pressure on levels of acquisitive retail theft and increase the risk of physical violence suffered by retail workers. It is hoped that both retailers and police authorities will work in tandem to protect employees.”

Usdaw Freedom From Fear campaign here






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