Scottish Parliament Passes Bill Protecting Shop Workers

The Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill, was passed in the Scottish Parliament on 19th of January.

It was brought forward as a Members Bill by Daniel Johnson MSP, Labour, and will create a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker and provide further legal protections when the worker is carrying out their statutory duties such as age restricted sales. 

According to shopworkers union Usdaw, 15 retail workers are assaulted on an average day in Scotland.  In a given year one in three shopworkers will be threatened, and three in five abused.  Usdaw estimate that instances of violence, threats and abuse have doubled since the pandemic in March.

The Bill was supported by all political parties as well as the Usdaw and GMB Unions, the Co-Operative Party and retail groups including the Scottish Retail Consortium and the Scottish Grocers Federation.

Daniel Johnson, MSP, Labour for Edinburgh Southern, said:

 “The passage of my Bill represents a victory for Labour values that will make a real and lasting difference to working people’s lives.

“For too long retail workers have been expected to put up with violence and abuse. That many see it as part of the job is completely unacceptable. My Bill will give retail workers the protection they deserve.

“This pandemic has seen retail on the front line; performing critical roles, supplying the basic essentials to all of us and keeping us safe as we do so. With us now living under another national lockdown, it’s more important than ever that our essential retail workers are properly supported.

“I would like to thank Usdaw and the GMB trade unions, the Co-Operative Party and stakeholders such as the Scottish Retail Consortium and the Scottish Grocers Federation, who have been behind me from day one.

“Throughout the whole process, from consultation to final vote, it has been encouraging to hear the supportive voices, recognising the important work of our retail workers. There is still more to do to change the culture of retail and I look forward to promoting this change in the law but through this first step we have begun to properly protect all those who work in retail.”

Commenting on the Bill, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, LibDem said:

“Nobody should ever go to work and expect to be on the receiving end of abuse, harassment or threats for simply doing their job.  Too often, however, we hear reports of this being the case for many retail workers. 

“In some ways, the early stages of the pandemic exposed the seriousness of the problem. Even in Orkney, shopworkers experienced unacceptable verbal abuse or threatening behaviour, despite working flat out to help our community in already challenging conditions.

“Parliament heard evidence that retail workers usually avoid reporting incidents to the police for fear of not being taken seriously.  That cannot be right and underlines the case for changes in the law. Hopefully, this bill will give retail workers more confidence that their concerns will be acted upon in future.

“Of course, legislation alone won’t completely eradicate the problem.  However, this bill should send a strong message that any type of verbal or physical abuse directed toward those working in our retail sector will always be deemed unacceptable and never tolerated.”

Once the Bill receives Royal Assent it will become law.

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