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Member's bill proposal seeks to counter abuse of retail staff

22 January 2018

Retail staff, especially those involved in the sale of age-restricted goods, could be given new legal protections under a proposal for a member's bill to be brought before the Scottish Parliament.

Daniel Johnson, Labour MSP for Edinburgh South, has opened a consultation on a proposed Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-Restricted Sales etc) (Scotland) Bill that seeks to counter "a serious problem of violence and abuse" against such workers "that has failed to be addressed by successive governments and is getting worse".

Introducing his plans, Mr Johnson states: "The sale of age-restricted goods, particularly alcohol and tobacco, necessitates asking for proof of age. When this leads to denial of sale it can be a major trigger for many of these incidents. That is why this proposal also covers those selling age-restricted goods and services who are not in a shop setting – for example bar staff, door staff and supermarket delivery drivers."

As the requirement to ask for proof of age falls on the individual worker, he argues that they should be provided with the protection of the law. However, with such incidents becoming "normalised", workers are not reporting them to the police, or if they are, "many feel their reports are not followed up or bargained away at court, if cases even reach that stage".

The main option put forward is to create new offences that would cover any of the following:

  • assaulting a worker in the retail sector;
  • assaulting a worker involved in the sale or supply of age-restricted goods or services;
  • abusing, harassing, threatening or obstructing a worker involved in the sale or supply of age-restricted goods or services. (This would cover verbal abuse, verbal or non-verbal threats, harassment and intimidation.)

Statutory offences, Mr Johnson maintains, are "simple and easily understandable by both victims and perpetrators of violence or abuse"; they may assist in breaking the cycle of under-reporting, and choosing not to prosecute; and "the creation of specific offences sends a clear message that violence and abuse against workers is not acceptable. This could act as deterrent against violence, especially when backed up by a public information campaign". They would sit alongside the existing common law. 

As an alternative, the consultation explores the option of creating a new statutory aggravation for offences against a worker involved in the sale or supply of age-restricted goods or services.

Click here to access the consultation. The deadline for responses is 20 April 2018.

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