Shopworkers and retailers have called for a compulsory alcohol and tobacco proof-of-age scheme to protect staff from attacks or threats of violence.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw this week met MPs at Westminster to call for a universally recognised and mandatory scheme.
Under such a scheme, showing an ID card before purchase would be compulsory for all customers who could conceivably be underage.
And during Respect for Shop Workers Week, which started last Monday, the union revealed research showing the high level of verbal or physical abuse on staff after they refused to sell
alcohol or cigarettes. In an Usdaw survey conducted over a seven-day period last month, a random sample of 660 shopworkers reported 887 incidents of verbal abuse, 224 threats, 107 cases of violence, 48 incidents of sexual harassment and 32 incidents of racial abuse.
These were mostly triggered by staff refusing to serve age-restricted products or requesting proof of age, by them apprending shoplifters, or refusing to serve alcohol to customers who were drunk.
The Respect for Shop Workers week, part of Usdaw’s Freedom From Fear campaign, aimed to raise respect for retail staff and improve safety in the workplace.
Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “Shopworkers are going to work in fear and that is totally unacceptable. It is time for this hard-working sector of the workforce to be given the respect they deserve and the protection they should have as a basic workplace right.”
The Association of Convenience Stores called for a effective national government policy on underage purchases and a no-ID, no sale policy.
Chief executive David Rae said: “This research is the most conclusive proof to date that asking for evidence of age triggers intimidation, threats and antisocial behaviour towards retail staff and managers.”
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents backed calls for compulsory proof-of-age cards and said that in the last year more than 25% of its members had been the victims of crime.
Peter Wagg, NFRN national president, said: “The scale and frequency of incidents reinforces what a very real, everyday problem this is.”
Amy Balchin