Last year saw an astounding 25% increase in verbal and physical assaults on shop workers in the UK. Not only this, it was also found that a shocking 250 workers were assaulted at work every day over the same period. Despite the increase in assaults, the number of workers reporting such events remains low, with only one third of workplace assaults being formally reported.

Shocking assaults at work

The number of attacks occurring across the UK is appalling, but possibly even more startling is the extent of the injuries that shop workers are being left with. A 63 year old worker in Ayrshire was left in a critical condition following an attack last November. After a member of the public found the lady lying injured on the floor, she was taken to hospital by ambulance where specialist care was required for severe head injuries. It is believed that the attacker entered the premises via a back entrance and, after the shop assistant had handed over a sum of money, struck the lady leaving her severely injured. The attack is being treated as attempted murder by local police. Det Ch Insp Martin Fergus of the local emergency services commented:

This is an appalling and senseless crime on this defenceless woman. She had handed him over a large sum of money, so there was absolutely no need for him to attack her in the violent and sickening way he did. He obviously has no conscience and must be caught.

Triggers for workplace assault

Both theft and the challenging of age for the sale of age restricted products have been highlighted as two main triggers for threats and violence against shop workers. It is reported that customers can become aggressive and turn violent when caught shoplifting or when refused the sale of alcohol and/or cigarettes. Shop workers around the UK replied in the following ways when responding to a USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) survey:

I was attacked at work when I caught a customer stealing – they tried to strangle me. shop worker assaulted at work

I often have to deal with all shoplifters. I’ve been smacked, head butted, spat at and kicked.

Drunk customers often come into the store when I work the night shift, and they often become aggressive if I refuse an alcohol sale.

Customers threaten to beat you up when you request ID as part of ‘challenge 25’ scheme.

Moving forward

As mentioned earlier, less than one third of attacks are actually reported. The strong message coming from the companies that employ shop workers and the emergency services is to report violence at work to managers and the police. John Hannett, the General Secretary of USDAW explained the importance of reporting an attack should it happen to you:

All too often criminals who assault staff are not even sent to court, those who are can receive derisory sentences. In other cases, where the offender isn’t even charged, victims are left feeling that no one cares that they were assaulted. That can lead to staff not reporting incidents and our strong message is ‘report it, to sort it

If you have been injured after being physically assaulted at work. You might be able to claim compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. You may also have a claim against your employer if the organisation you work for hasn’t done enough to protect you from violence at work. You would also have a potential personal injury claim against your attacker, though such people rarely have the money to pay you compensation.

Georgina Parkin, a solicitor and director at Truth Legal, specialising in claims relating to assaults at work, said:

“Some assaults on shop workers are simply unpredictable and unstoppable. Often an employer couldn’t really do a great deal to prevent the attack. However, many assaults on shop workers are predictable and stoppable and therefore the employers should do all that they can to reduce the risk of an assault – and the risk of an injury from an assault – to the lowest practicable level. Employers should consider providing screens to provide some safety to staff. Some employers should employ security personnel in known flashpoints and of course employers should provide de-escalation and self-defence training to appropriate members of staff.”

At Truth Legal Solicitors we specialize in Personal Injury, Clinical Negligence, Employment Disputes and more. We are based in Harrogate with virtual offices around in York, Manchester and London. We offer a free consultation on a no obligations basis to discuss and help resolve issues you may have regarding being assaulted at work. Should you feel that you wish take the matter further don’t hesitate to contact us as we can often work on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.

We also specialise in representing people who want to change solicitors because they feel that the lawyers do not fully understand the circumstances of the assault at work. If you want to discuss switching solicitors, please get in touch for a confidential discussion.

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Catherine Reynolds
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