Instances of abuse, threats and even assaults on shopworkers have all risen since the coronavirus crisis began, new research has found.

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw says cases of abuse and violence against retail workers have collectively doubled since March 14, according to the findings of its coronavirus survey.

In the last 34 days, 62.2% of shopworkers had been verbally abused, 29% had been threatened and 4% had reported a physical assault by a member of the public, based on 4,928 responses.

The union said that extrapolated across the 3 million strong UK retail workforce, this amounted to over 3,500 assaults per day since the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country.

As a result, Usdaw has called for “urgent action” to address the issue and said shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds would be “seeking assurances from the government that tackling these crimes is a policing priority throughout this crisis”.

Responses to the survey tell stories of workers receiving “constant abuse” from customers over issues such as being told to follow social distancing in stores and when asking consumers to pay by card, rather than with cash.

The submissions also show instances of racial abuse and “customers spitting, coughing and sneezing” towards shopworkers on purpose.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said: “We are shocked that violence, threats and abuse have doubled during this national emergency.

“At a time when we should all be working together to get through this crisis, it is a national disgrace that people working to keep food on the shelves for their local communities are being abused and assaulted.

“Urgent action is required. Our message is clear: abuse is not part of the job.

“Shops are the cornerstone of our communities but they can only operate with staff, who clearly do not have the option to work from home. We continue to work with retailers to improve health and safety for staff. We also call on customers to stay calm and respect shopworkers.”

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