Happy new year to everyone. I hope you had a restful break after a busy service season. January is a time to reflect and set ambitions and aspirations for the year ahead. Unlike the many New Year’s resolutions that will fall by the wayside however, this year we all have a duty to uphold our commitment to building a Service Nation.
For me, a vital part of our mission is protecting service staff from abuse. Not only is this a moral imperative, it’s also essential for their wellbeing, productivity, and engagement, as well as the impact and contribution they make to the UK economy and society.
Since launching our Service with Respect campaign in 2020, the Institute has been championing the rights of the UK’s service workers. Most recently, in November 2023, we revealed new data on the abuse of customer-facing staff, backed by an open letter from over 50 influential figures calling on the policing minister to ensure assaults on public service workers are recorded separately in police statistics.
I was encouraged to see earlier this week that the issue remains in the spotlight, with retailers calling for Westminster to implement a standalone statutory offence for abuse. In Scotland, similar legislation has led to a 50% increase in shop staff reporting assaults.
Protection for workers in all sectors – not just retail
However, we should not lose sight of the wider context: the challenges of abuse are not confined to retail workers. This is a cross-sector issue that demands a holistic solution.
We need to ensure that any measures taken recognise the diversity of service roles – from call centre operators and shop assistants to transport workers and delivery drivers – in every sector. We call on policy makers and police to take this into account if they are to introduce new legislation, and when implementing new procedures.
And new legislation can’t come quickly enough. Our latest research on abuse shows that more than one third of staff suffered abuse in the first six months of 2023, with only half of the cases being followed up and just 6% being reported to the police.
Our call to action – make 2024 a year of change
While we welcome the successes of our Service with Respect campaign to date – including a change in law to make the abuse of workers an aggravated offence in 2022 – we know there is more to be done to safeguard customer-facing staff and bring offenders to justice.
On top of this, data from the Institute shows that we lose nine working days every year due to employee absence, triggered by such aggression – so it’s about protecting the UK economy at the same time.
We need to see real change now more than ever. We need your help to improve the conditions of the essential service workers who face unacceptable abuse every day. I urge you to join us in supporting Service with Respect in 2024, for the sake of our staff, businesses, and economy.