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The announcement made by the Prime Minister on Wednesday, introducing new protective measures for Britain’s shopworkers, represents a significant and very welcome step in the right direction.

Classifying assaults on shopworkers as a distinct criminal offence is a sign of progress. It also resonates with the Institute’s pan-sector Service with Respect campaign – of which a key milestone was a change in law to elevate the abuse of public-facing workers to an aggravated offence in July 2022.

As we strive for the protection of service workers, new legislation is a vital part of getting the change we want to see – it should act as a deterrent, provide peace of mind to those on the frontline and significantly improve recording of offences.

So, whilst we very much welcome this proposal from the Government, it’s also important to note that abuse is not just confined to the retail world. Customer-facing professionals across all industries are exposed to shocking levels of abuse every day – from those in transport and delivery services, to hospitality and customer support roles, right through to financial services professionals.

The need for further – and broader – change is clear. Whilst I welcome this week’s change to the law, why stop here? Any form of abuse directed at service workers, no matter the sector, is not only unacceptable, but indefensible. We remain committed to raising awareness of and highlighting the issue.

A silent epidemic: underreporting of service staff abuse

Our data, based on research undertaken quarterly since 2020, shows an alarming prevalence of abuse directed at service staff. Over a third of employees experienced some form of maltreatment in the six months leading up to November last year.

Whether mental or physical, any abuse inflicted upon service workers carries severe repercussions. Shockingly, our research shows that 20% of those facing hostility took sick leave as a result.

Moreover, the recent surge in abuse and violence should concern businesses. On average, nine days are lost per year due to staff absences caused by abuse, directly impacting both business operations and economic productivity.

Perhaps most staggering is the lack of reporting. Only 44% of people have reported incidents of abuse and violence faced at work. Some believe it won’t make a difference, while others consider it too commonplace to warrant reporting. This silence sends a clear signal: the abuse of service staff demands greater attention and action.

A call to action: pan-sector frameworks

Last November, we published an open letter, signed by over 55 CEOs, business leaders and Parliamentarians calling for the Government to ensure assaults on service workers across every sector are better recorded. By properly recording and addressing abuse, we not only prevent repeat incidents but also foster cross-sector collaboration. Let us protect all service professionals, regardless of their field, and ensure their safety remains a top priority.

If you haven’t already, you can sign your organisation up to show your support for our Service with Respect campaign here.

Jo joined The Institute as its CEO in 2009. She has driven membership growth by 150 percent and established the UK Customer Satisfaction Index as the country’s premier indicator of consumer satisfaction, providing organisations with an indicator of the return on their service strategy investment.

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