Chief executives from 100 of the UK’s largest retailers have written directly to the prime minister urging him to support a law to tackle violence and abuse against store staff.

The open letter addressed directly to the prime minister has been signed by the chief executives of Amazon UK, Tesco, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer among others.

Amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to tackle rising levels of violence and abuse against retail workers are currently in the report stage and will have a third reading in Parliament on Monday July 5.

The Home Affairs Select Committee concluded in a report last week that a new criminal offence is required due to the “shocking upsurge in violence and abuse” towards retail employees.

A survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed a 7% year-on-year increase in incidents of violence and abuse in 2019, with 455 cases reported daily.

There has been a further surge in retail violence in recent months as retail workers aim to ensure that Covid-19 regulations are followed in-store.

One retailer featured in the survey reported a 76% increase in abuse and a 10% increase in violent attacks, with half involving a weapon. Employees have also been spat on or coughed at during the pandemic.

Other situations that have led to targeted attacks include requests for ID and shoplifting incidents. 

This has led to increased costs for retailers to prevent crime, with £1.2bn being invested in the past year alone on measures including body-worn cameras, personal-attack alarms and increased security.

In Scotland, the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) Bill, proposed by Daniel Johnson MSP, became law earlier this year.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Retail workers are facing violence and abuse every day just for doing their jobs: keeping customers safe during the pandemic, checking ID and confronting shoplifters.

“Behind each of these statistics is a person, a family, colleagues and communities that have to cope with this trauma. No one should go to work fearing for their safety, yet many retail workers have come to see it as part of the job – this can’t go on.

“The time for action is now. We need to see the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill deliver better protection for our colleagues.”