Assaulting a shop or frontline worker should be made a criminal offence in its own right – as is the case with the emergency services, Esther McVey has said.
The Tatton MP said the move would show how much staff, who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, are valued and send out a clear message violence or abuse will not be tolerated.
Speaking in Parliament Ms McVey welcomed the doubling of sentencing for assault on an emergency worker – something she campaigned for - but added other workers needed to have the same protection.
Ms McVey said: “Isn’t it therefore now time for a specific crime of assaulting shop workers and other customer facing front line workers given the number of assaults on them since this pandemic started has doubled.”
According to a survey of nearly 5,000 shopworkers found since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak 62 per cent had experienced verbal abuse, almost a third were threatened by a customer and four per cent were assaulted. Union Usdaw who carried out the survey said based on the number of retail workers across the country that would mean more than 3,500 assaults every day.
Home Office Minister Chris Philp said Government was committed to protecting workers and judges already had the powers to hand out longer sentences as if an assault involved a frontline worker as sentencing guidelines stipulate if the victim deals with the public it is an aggravating factor – allowing for extra time to be added.
But Ms McVey wants Government to re-think and said a separate offence would show appreciation for workers and could deter attackers.
“By making it a specific offence it will make it easier for control maximum sentences and ensure the toughest penalties for anyone who thinks they can get away with assaulting a front facing worker. The number of assaults on staff is shocking and no one should go to work in fear. We need to introduce this offence to show our retail staff transport workers and all other customer facing roles that they are valued and abuse is not part of their job and will not be tolerated.”
Usdaw have said that the number of assaults on shop workers has doubled since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak.