National law firm, Foot Anstey LLP and the UK’s retail industry charity, the Retail Trust have launched the Retailers Against Harassment Certification, aimed at protecting and reassuring shop workers as they face rising levels of abuse and inappropriate behaviour.
Several well-known retailers are now in talks to commit to The Retailers Against Harassment Certification which has been designed to create safer working environments for staff. Participating employers will work with Foot Anstey and the Retail Trust to review and improve the measures they have in place to protect their workers and deal with any complaints of harassment. The Retailers Against Harassment Certification will then be awarded to each retailer to demonstrate the actions it is taking to tackle abusive incidents.
Why this certification is needed
The move follows research by Foot Anstey that found nearly two thirds (61 percent) of shop workers have experienced offensive behaviour at work since the pandemic1, causing stress, anxiety and a loss of self-esteem. However, only 15 percent of retailers told the Retail Trust that they have raised awareness or implemented training to deal with the issue2.
Retailers looking to achieve certification, will be assessed across multiple aspects, including the policies and procedures they have in place to deal with harassment, their leadership’s commitment to tackling the problem, employee experiences, and how complaints are handled. Foot Anstey’s legal advisors will work with the retailer to identify risks and opportunities to improve and, where appropriate, will refer the retailer to the Retail Trust team for further support and advice.
The creation of the certification follows the British Retail Consortium’s open letter2 to the Prime Minister in July 2021 calling for greater legal protection for retail workers, which was signed by the leaders of 100 retailers, including Ikea, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. New legislation in Scotland, that makes it a criminal offence to assault, abuse or threaten retail staff, has not yet been introduced across the rest of the UK.
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, said: “Violence towards shopworkers remains a major problem facing the industry. We welcome any initiatives aimed at supporting colleagues, and helping retailers to protect their workers. Similarly we welcome new ways to evaluate the effectiveness of measures currently in place to protect colleagues.”
A survey by the Home Affairs Committee last year found that, of the 87 per cent of retail workers who reported an offence to their employer, nearly half said that no further action was taken. A third of respondents said they did not report incidents to their employer because they believed nothing would be done or it was ‘just part of the job’.
Nathan Peacey, Head of Retail and Consumer at Foot Anstey commented: “Our study into harassment in retail presented some alarming results and left us wondering what more could be done to protect this group of keyworkers and help create safer working environments for retail workers.
“Responsible retailers are already aware of the problem and are working hard to address it, and this certification is an opportunity to gauge the efficacy of their actions and show their teams they are taking this issue seriously. The program will help retailers to build on their current approach using our insight and legal know-how, and Retail Trust’s 190 years of industry experience.”
Demand for the Retail Trust’s services, which includes metal health support and financial aid, has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic. It has answered 25,000 helpline calls and run more than 11,000 counselling sessions to provide support to those facing stress, anxiety, and depression and help people working in the sector pay their bills.
Chris Brook-Carter, Chief Executive of the Retail Trust added: “More and more people are turning to the Retail Trust because of the rising levels of abuse they are receiving in stores and call centres. This programme will help to give retail workers some of the clarity and reassurance they deserve by showing exactly what their employers are doing to protect them.
“The Retailers Against Harassment Certification recognises the important role that employers have to play in creating safer and happier workplaces for their staff, and we applaud any retailers that take part. We look forward to helping more people this year as we join forces with Foot Anstey to bring the industry together in tackling such a terrible issue.”
Learn more about the Retailers Against Harassment Certification
Modern Retail spoke with Chris Brook-Carter, Chief Executive of the Retail Trust about the Retailers Against Harassment Certification. Here’s what he had to say:
How important is it that retail workers are supported and protected from offensive behaviour?
It is so important that the retail industry works together to provide the right protection for our colleagues on the frontline who continue to face an unacceptable threat of violence and abuse at work. This is a significant and growing problem which has intensified existing pressures on retail workers and contributed to a surge in demand for the Retail Trust’s health wellbeing services since the start of the pandemic.
This problem has actually been on the rise since long before the pandemic, with a report by the Home Affairs Committee last year finding that violence against shop workers has been escalating for five years due to issues with things like returning items or asking for proof of age. But Covid-19 certainly intensified this issue with so many staff reporting terrible incidents of physical or verbal abuse as a result of asking people to wear a mask or stick to social distancing measures.
We have so much to thank retail workers for, particularly over the last couple of years when they have worked hard to keep stores running, deliver essential services and implement the correct safety measures. The very least they deserve is the ability to carry out their jobs without fear of being abused or assaulted.
2. How easy is it for retail business owners to gain their Retailers Against Harassment Certification and what benefits will this bring their team?
The retailers against harassment certification will recognise and showcase the businesses that are taking the appropriate steps to protect their staff from abuse and harassment. It will audit each retailer’s approach and commitment to tackling workplace harassment, giving credit when good work is already in place and supporting businesses where improvements can be made.
The certification process should take around 10-12 weeks to give enough time to go through documents, materials and other evidence of each organisation’s approach across six areas including how it deals with harassment, its leadership’s commitment to tackling the problem, employee experiences, and how any complaints are handled. This work will also involve employee interviews and a workshop to provide feedback and develop ideas for delivering improvements. The programme will then culminate with a written report and recommendations, and certification if the appropriate standard is met.
Teams will benefit from the Retail Trust’s and Foot Anstey’s joint expertise on how best to protect staff and prevent issues before they occur. And the recognised certification can then be used as powerful evidence of a retailer’s commitment to protecting its people, helping to attract and retain employees at a time when retail vacancy rates are at an all-time high.
To find out more about the Retailers Against Harassment Certification visit: retailtrust.org.uk/harassment-prevention
Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail’s Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today’s ever-changing market.