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Cost-of-living crisis leads to increase in abuse towards retail staff


// Rise in abuse and violence towards shopworkers, The Institute of Customer Service finds
// A quarter of staff facing increased hostility blame cost-of-living crisis

Shopworkers are facing an increased level of abuse and violence as the cost-of-living crisis puts stress on customers.

A quarter of staff who have faced increased hostility said they believe this increase is partly due to the sharp increase in the cost of living.

Research from the Institute of Customer Service revealed that 44% of frontline service staff have experienced hostility from customers in the past six months – a rise from 35% in February.

READ MORE: Violence and abuse against shopworkers triples during pandemic

It comes as new powers come into force on Tuesday, which will allow for large penalties to be handed to customers who attack and abuse shop workers.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 was given royal assent in April.

The policy change came after a host of retailers, including the Co-op, reported a surge in attacks on workers during the pandemic.

“Today’s change in the law is a reason for celebration for all those who campaigned for service with respect for our nation’s hard-working, frontline service professionals,” Institute for Customer Service CEO, Jo Causon said.

“These new stricter sentencing guidelines will provide vital protection for workers against a backdrop of heightened customer stress and frustration relating to rising prices, and falling levels of service due to widespread skills shortages.

“I worry that UK businesses are becoming trapped in a Catch-22 situation, with tensions boiling over into abuse that triggers staff absences leading to further frustration. We must break this cycle, by acting together as a society to offer our support to hard-pressed, frontline workers.”

The new research, from a poll of more than 1,300 customer-facing staff, found that over a third – 35% – believe that behaviours and tone has become more aggressive over the past six months.

Meanwhile, 33% of workers who have experienced hostility cited higher levels of anxiety among shoppers as a trigger for customer hostility and a quarter (25%) specifically linked it to price increases.

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