Police are failing to protect shopworkers against a rise in abuse in recent years and over the course of the pandemic, a new government report has found.

MPs have called for a new standalone law to be introduced that would make it a criminal offence to assault shopworkers in England and Wales to “send a powerful and long overdue message that assaults on retail workers will not be tolerated”.

A recent report by the BRC found that abuse against shopworkers rose 7% in 2019-20, equating to one incident per minute during a nine-hour working day, while the Co-op said incidents of violent crime against its staff had increased fourfold in the past six years.

The Home Affairs select committee’s report on retail violence said “the policing response is failing to match the scale of the problem” faced by the sector.

The report called for a range of other measures including neighbourhood policing teams to be expanded to “rebuild relationships with retailers, identify prolific offenders and respond quickly to local reports of retail crime”, mandatory recording of offences committed in a retail environment and an employers’ charter setting out how businesses should support and protect shopfloor staff.

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper MP said: “Shopworkers are the lifeblood of our local high streets and communities. During the Covid-19 pandemic, retail workers kept our communities going and they deserve our thanks and gratitude.

“It is even more shameful, then, that abuse and assaults against shopworkers went up during the pandemic, and it is completely unacceptable that these attacks have become so commonplace in our society.

“Yet too often the police have not taken these crimes seriously enough and workers have been left to deal with the traumatic consequences alone. Those who abuse and assault shopworkers must not be allowed to re-offend with impunity.”

Responding to the findings of the Home Affairs report, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “We welcome the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on retail violence. The report rightly acknowledges the scale of the issue, and we are pleased to see that it calls on government to urgently consult on a new criminal offence.

“The government has repeatedly rejected numerous calls to protect retail workers through the creation of a specific offence. We hope this report will prompt the government to finally do what is necessary to protect retail staff from harm across the country and stop dragging its feet – this could be achieved through an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently going through parliament.”