A new report by criminologists has warned that shop workers are experiencing severe mental health consequences, including long-lasting anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), more commonly seen in the armed forces, as a result of high levels of assaults and threats at work, with around two-fifths of violent incidents resulting in injury.

The thought-provoking research has been produced by Dr Emmeline Taylor, a criminologist at City, University of London, in partnership with The Co-op.

The report describes violence in the retail sector as having “reached ‘epidemic’ proportions,” with the latest statistics showing that assaults and threats against shop workers have risen three-fold.

It is estimated that some 115 workers are physically attacked every day, and many more verbally abused and threatened.

Estimates also show that assaults and threats toward retail and wholesale staff are at the highest level since 2012, with around two-fifths (39%) of violent incidents resulting in injury.

The report says that shop workers report severe mental health consequences from violence, including long-lasting anxiety and PTSD, more commonly seen in the armed forces than in other settings.

The strain of constant abuse and fear of physical violence is causing some shop workers to change their shift pattern, their place of work or, in the worst cases, terminate their employment entirely.

The report makes a number of recommendations for new legislation which would carry higher penalties for attacks and changing expectations regarding age-restricted sales, to move the onus onto customers to voluntarily prove their age as opposed to shop workers having to enforce the legislation.

Dr Taylor has called on the Government to urgently take action to protect employees and send a clear message that violence and verbal abuse will not be tolerated in shops.

She added, “The accounts provided in this study by victims highlight that more needs to be done to protect shop workers.”

Last reviewed 25 September 2019