By Mark Balaam, CEO and founder of imabi

With violence and abuse against retail staff reaching epidemic levels, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff is now a paramount responsibility for retailers.

Recent statistics from the British Retail Consortium paint a disheartening picture. According to its data, UK workers are faced with more than 1,300 incidents of abuse or violence a day.

That’s a staggering figure – to the point where it’s easy to feel like the horse has bolted and that resigning ourselves to it being part and parcel of working in retail today is the only option.

However, that’s not the case. Retailers can take proactive steps to help turn the tide to not just reduce incidents, but also support staff wellbeing – both physically and emotionally, to create a better working environment that’s free from abuse.

But what are those steps? Well, first and foremost, retailers should establish clear policies and procedures outlining zero-tolerance for any form of abuse – be that from the public or fellow staff.

These policies should be communicated transparently to all employees and reinforced with regular training sessions so that everyone knows where they stand.

By educating your staff about their rights, the available reporting mechanisms and relevant support services they can access, you’ll empower them to speak up confidently against abuse. They’ll also be reassured to know they have support on hand.

Technology can also play a big part in helping to track and monitor incidents of abuse. This can be an anonymous reporting system, or even a dedicated hotline to enable employees to report incidents without fear of reprisal. The benefit of reporting incidents is that 1) you’re able to form an understanding of the seriousness of the problem and 2) you’re able to allocate resources in certain areas and at certain times to counteract it.

These resources can take many forms, but visible deterrents should be amongst them. Investing in surveillance cameras and other security measures can discourage possible perpetrators from abusing staff in the first place, while it also helps to provide evidence in the event of any reported incidents.

Whilst tracking and monitoring abuse is an essential part of counteracting it, you also need to raise awareness of the issue – with staff and with customers.

Channels such as newsletters, posters, in-store digital displays and more can help you disseminate information about abuse prevention, the support resources available and the relevant helplines.

You can also collaborate with local community organisations and advocacy groups to amplify any anti-abuse messaging, as well as working with other retailers in the area to form a united front against abuse of staff. Consider engaging with local schools and universities to talk to students about the effects of abusing staff to contribute to a broader societal shift towards zero-tolerance for abuse in all its forms. By becoming advocates for change and consistently highlighting the issue, you can inspire others to recognise the problem and take action.

You should also look to foster a culture of empathy and support within your business. By promoting open communication, offering empathy training and creating safe spaces for staff to express concerns or seek assistance, you can nurture a more supportive working environment. Not only can this enhance staff morale, it also builds resilience against any abuse that does occur.

Ultimately, safeguarding staff and raising awareness of abuse should be viewed as an integral responsibility for retailers. By implementing clear policies, using technology, fostering a more supportive culture, and driving awareness, you can create a safer and more inclusive work environment for employees. By working together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of retail workers and contribute to a safer society for all.


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March 2024 issue

2024 A1 Buyers Guide