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Addressing the hostility faced by the UK’s public service staff

With around 60% of the UK’s workforce working in customer-facing roles, mounting abuse is impacting staff across every sector – from retail to public services, and from financial institutions to our public transport networks.

In July 2020, we launched our Service with Respect campaign. The aim was to shine a light on this issue, with research that revealed high levels of abuse and low levels of reporting cross-sector.

On 8 December 2021, The Times published an abridged version of this open letter calling for action to tackle the issue of abuse against public-facing workers.

Following many months of campaigning, we achieved one of the core aims of our Service with Respect campaign: a change in the law to protect customer-facing workers from abuse.

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Read open letter
Continued Campaigning

Despite the campaign’s success, our latest round of research issued in November 2023 reveals that customer hostility is still a major issue. More than a third (36%) of workers surveyed have experienced hostility in the last six months and worryingly, only 44% of those impacted reported the incident. Abuse of service staff is also impacting the UK economy: nearly one third of customer-facing workers have considered leaving their jobs, and 20% have taken sick leave in the last six months.

This is why more than 55 CEOs, business leaders and politicians signed a second open letter, published in The Daily Mail, calling on the policing minister to ensure assaults on public service workers are recorded separately in police statistics.

We will continue to campaign and keep this issue top of mind for businesses, Government, and consumers.

What your organisation can do

We know from our research that the majority of staff feel well supported by their employer, but as we continue to face tough business conditions ahead, we urge all organisations not to let this fall by the wayside.

We’re asking that organisations across all sectors to:
  • Support the campaign by displaying the campaign logo on your website and spreading the word on social media
  • Adopt a zero tolerance approach to hostility and abuse against your employees
  • Hold regular catch ups with your front-line staff and keep close to what is happening in their day whilst encouraging them to report incidents
  • Invest in appropriate training and tools for staff to handle the new and increasingly challenging duties they are being tasked with, and to deal with potential conflict as it arises
Show your support

Please help us spread the message on social media by using the hashtag #servicewithrespect and tag us @instituteofcs (Twitter) and @Institute of Customer Service (LinkedIn).

Below are some free campaign resources you can use:

The full Service with Respect logopack and usage guidelines can be accessed here.

Download your Service with Respect social media cards here:


Explore our wide range of Service with Respect products here, including:

Pin Badges
A6 Window Stickers
Roll-up banners

Key campaign milestones
Campaign supporters
Total employees
Combined turnover
Our campaign supporters include:
Our Parliamentary Champions:
Service with Respect coverage:
BBC Breakfast (Oct 2022)
Sky News (Apr 2022)
BBC News (March 2021)
Related posts:
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