Abuse of shop workers on the rise due to ‘cost-of-living stress’

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 and stress this has placed on customers.

New figures from The Institute of Customer Service revealed 44% of frontline service staff have experienced hostility from customers in the past six months – a rise from 35% in February 2022.

It comes as new powers come into force on Tuesday (June 28), 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.

Dudley News: New laws will protect workers from severe abuse or violence (PA)New laws will protect workers from severe abuse or violence (PA)

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

Tensions are continuing to rise and this is thought to be linked with declining consumer sentiment amid the cost-of-living crisis, according to the Institute for Customer Service.

Jo Causon, chief executive officer of the institute, said: “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.

“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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