Retail staff have said customer abuse has become more aggressive after the shops were hit by stock and labour shortages this year.
The Institute of Customer Service, alongside bosses from household names including Marks and Spencers, Sainsbury’s and Wickes, has signed an open letter calling for better treatment of customer service staff.
Workers fear abuse will get worse in the lead up to Christmas after hostile behaviour has intensified in the past six months. One in 15 customer service staff (6.7 per cent) said they had received death threats.
More than 75 business leaders, plus 10 MPs and peers, backed the letter, which calls for more protection for workers.
Retail bosses are hopeful that a tabled amendment to the Sentencing Bill will mean assaults on those serving the public will be treated as ‘aggravated’ in sentencing terms.
Jo Causon, CEO of Institute of Customer Service, said: “Sadly, hostility towards customer service professionals shows no sign of diminishing. Given everything we have been through in the last 18 months we all have a duty to protect our frontline workers and now is the time to act. Organisations can play their part by ensuring staff are adequately trained and supported.”
The tabled amendment was “a huge step in the right direction and shows that the Government is listening,” Causon added, saying the group would continue to lobby government to push the changes into law.
“Despite the challenging landscape, we also urge customers to be kind and show patience as workers face labour and supply shortages in the build up to Christmas,” Causon added.
A poll from the institute found that nearly half of workers felt instances of hostility had become more belligerent in the past six months.
Staff pointed to long queues and waiting times, limited availability of stock and staff shortages as factors causing conflict.
Employees were most likely to experience being shouted at, with 60.7 per cent of staff experiencing this, while 47.1 per cent said they had been sworn at.
Staff had also experienced physical violence like pushing (13.7 per cent) and punching (10.3 per cent).