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March 18, 2014

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Summary: tackling violence against staff: best practice for retailers


Tackling violence against staff: best practice guidelines for retailers (2nd Edition 2014) was developed by members of the British Retail Consortium’s Tackling Retail Violence Working Group with the intention of providing helpful advice to retailers to help protect their staff from violence, threatening behaviour and abuse against their staff.

Retail is at the heart of local communities, employing close to three million staff across the country and providing important local goods and services to consumers. The sector is an essential contributor to economic growth and to the regeneration of areas affected by crime and disorder.

All too often retailers, their staff and their customers experience or witness crime and anti-social behaviour. The latest Annual Retail Crime Survey, published by the BRC in January 2014, showed that the direct cost of retail crime was £511m in 2012-13.

Although some progress has been made in tackling the issue, violence against staff remains an  unacceptable threat to the health and wellbeing of the retail sector’s three million employees. In 2012-13 there were 38 incidents of violence and abuse per 1,000 staff reported in the Retail Crime Survey.

In areas where there is a greater fear of violence and intimidation, retailers report a greater turnover of staff and higher incidents of sickness and absence. Unfortunately many employees now appear to accept this abuse as ‘part of the job’.

Aim of guidelines

The aim of the BRC’s guidelines for retailers is to increase awareness of the impact that violence and abuse has on retail employees and to challenge the perception that it is acceptable. The guidelines will encourage greater reporting of incidents by outlining good practice examples of the support provided to retail employees facing violence and abuse in the workplace.

The guidelines also promote greater prevention of offences by setting out good practice in identifying and responding to potential triggers for violence and abuse.

Who are these guidelines for?

The guidelines are aimed to provide examples of proven best practice to help senior managers tackle increasing violence and abuse against retail staff.

What should they do with them?

The BRC Tackling Retail Violence Working Group strongly encourages the adoption and implementation wherever possible of the elements of best practice as described within these guidelines.

Guiding principles

Although there are a number of suggestions within this document the most effective are often simple and cost little to implement. The two high level guiding principles that retailers should strive to achieve are laid out below.

High level guiding principles

There should be clear policies and procedures relating to violence in the workplace. These should be well communicated to retail staff so that they understand that violence in the workplace will not be tolerated and understand how the organisation will support them from violent or abusive acts.

Training retail staff in conflict management helps them to identify potentially violent or abusive situations from escalating. Where practicable, training should be scaled according to the roles and responsibilities of individual employees.


There are five main pieces of health and safety law which are relevant to protecting staff from violence in the workplace. These are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – employers must assess the risks to employees and make arrangements for health and safety by effective:
  • planning
  • organisation
  • control
  • monitoring
  • review
  •  The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 – In the event of an accident at work to any employee resulting in death, major injury or incapacity for – normal work for seven or more consecutive days, employers must notify their enforcing authority.

This would include any act of non-consensual physical violence against a person at work. 
 Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977

  • The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 – Employers must inform and consult with their employees in good time on matters relating to their health and safety.

What do companies and organisations need to do to comply?

Companies and organisations that take their obligations under health and safety law seriously are not likely to be in breach of the provisions.

Nonetheless, companies and organisations should keep their health and safety management systems under review, in particular, the way in which their activities are managed or organised by senior management.

This summary was provided by the Barbour EHS service, part of the UBM OSH group. The document is available in full here.

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