Pressure is mounting on the UK government to pass new laws protecting shop workers following the passing of a similar bill in the Scottish Parliament.

MSP Daniel Johnson’s Protection of Workers bill made it through the final stage of Holyrood’s legislative approval process on 19 January.

The law introduces new offences carrying higher penalties for those who assault shop workers.

Protection of Shop Workers Bill set to become law in Scotland

Abuse and assaults related to age-restricted products will also be seen as an aggravating factor in courts, opening the door to more severe punishments for offenders.

Johnson claimed as well as deterring crime, the law would create a more accurate official record of the amount of violence and abuse faced by retail staff.

Scottish minister for community safety
Ash Denham

A similar law in Westminster led by Alex Norris is facing tougher opposition.

In December, the Conservative government blocked the bill from progressing without further debate, with crime and policing minister Kit Malthouse stating the Home Office was yet to be convinced of the need for separate offences.

Speaking in Holyrood, Johnson said the bill would “mark Scotland leading the way on this issue and attention will turn to my Labour colleague Alex Norris’s efforts to pass similar legislation in Westminster”.

South of the border, a Home Affairs committee inquiry into violence against shop workers is ongoing, with the deadline for evidence submission passed on 22 January.

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betterRetailing understands the NFRN was asked by the committee to submit to the inquiry.

While the details remain private, the NFRN confirmed it strongly recommended that the UK government endorses a similar bill to the one newly passed in Scotland.

Responding to the passing of the law, NFRN Scottish president Ferhan Ashiq said: “The rules around the enforcing of Covid-19 regulations have strengthened the case for the need for this law more than ever.”

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NFRN national president Stuart Reddish said: “We urge MPs to introduce a similar law to safeguard all shop workers across the UK by backing Mr Norris’s bill.”

In Scotland, Johnson said his bill was the “starting point” for further action to crack down on retail crime.

In response, Scottish minister for community safety Ash Denham promised the Scottish government is “developing an awareness-building campaign to highlight the importance of reports being made when retailers are attacked or abused in the course of their work”.

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