A certification that protects retail employees_news story image

3 January 2024

In 2021, amidst rising numbers of people contacting the Retail Trust to help them deal with abuse at work, Foot Anstey’s survey of retail workers found nearly two thirds (61%) had experienced offensive behaviour which had caused stress, anxiety and a loss of self-esteem. However, only 15% of retailers interviewed for the Retail Trust’s 2021 health of retail report said they had done anything to raise awareness of the issue among staff or implemented training to help them deal with the issue.

The need to address the issue was clear. Foot Anstey and the Retail Trust partnered to create a certification which supports retailers by reviewing and improving measures they have in place to protect their workers and deal with any complaints of harassment.

The retailers against harassment certification was officially launched in 2022. It gives retailers and their employees greater knowledge and understanding of how to tackle harassment and create safer working environments. Once an organisation has signed up, they undergo a full audit before receiving recommendations and advice.

Nathan Peacey, head of retail and consumer at Foot Anstey commented: “Our study into harassment in retail in 2021 presented harrowing results and left us wondering what more could be done to protect this group of key workers.

“Responsible retailers are already aware of the problem and are working hard to address it. The certification is an opportunity to gauge the efficacy of processes in place and show retail teams that decision makers are taking this issue seriously. The programme supports retailers in building on their current approach using our insight and legal know-how, and the Retail Trust’s nearly 200 years of industry experience.”

Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive at the Retail Trust said: “This first of its kind certification was designed to give staff some of the reassurance they deserved by showing exactly what their employers are doing to protect them against abusive customers.

“We wanted it to help showcase those retailers that were taking the appropriate steps to protect their workers and deal with any complaints of harassment, and to provide the right support to other businesses looking to improve the measures they had in place.”

What’s changed two years on?

The Retail Trust’s respect retail campaign has continued to uncover rising levels of harassment towards retail workers and it has urged for the scale of this abuse not to go unrecorded.

Two in five retail workers have told the Retail Trust that they are now shouted at, threatened or hit every week, and nearly half say they are left feeling unsafe at work as a result.

But one in four admitted they don’t report abusive incidents to their employers, demonstrating the continued need for workplace policies that empower and support staff to speak out about their experiences.

Chris Brook-Carter said: “Retailers have a crucial role to play in creating safe and supportive environments for their employees to help protect them against unacceptable levels of abuse, and that’s we’re encouraging the retailers we work with to put in place. This includes implementing clear reporting procedures, offering training for handling difficult situations, and ensuring staff feel their concerns will be heard and acted upon.”

Meanwhile, Foot Anstey surveyed 2,000 British adults in October 2023 to better understand the ‘perception of the high street’. The report revealed alarming insights:

  • 34% said to have observed anti-social behaviour
  • 21% said to have noticed retail staff being harassed
  • 26% of respondents said they had witnessed shoplifting first hand.

Commenting on these statistics, Nathan Peacey said: “It is essential that retail communities see and experience strong local action, with retailers not only looking after their own but also collaborating with each other, local police and business improvement districts with a strong focus on protecting workers and create safer working environments.

“Foot Anstey continues to work with the Retail Trust on numerous projects to highlight the ongoing harassment epidemic which faces retail workers and we are proud to partner with the retail industry charity in this.”

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