75% of UK retail workers have feared for their physical safety at work

Three quarters of UK retail workers have experienced a situation where they felt their physical safety was at risk at work, according to new research by retail communication specialist, VoCoVo.

The new report: ‘Empowering the forgotten frontline’, reveals that almost nine in 10 (89%) retail workers regularly feel concerned for the safety of themselves and their colleagues at work. Over a quarter (29%) reported feeling concerned for the safety of themselves or their colleagues at least most days at work, with the typical worker feeling concerned an average of 1.9 times a week. Despite this, less than a third (32%) of retail workers would call for help if worried for their safety and 43% would only report the issue to a manager afterwards.

Safety concerns for retail workers are also prominent during Covid-19 with nearly half of UK retail workers (48%) admitting to experiencing verbal abuse since the crisis began and nearly a third (32%) experiencing physical abuse. Abuse is not just limited to staff too, with over half of UK retail workers (55%) saying they have experienced verbal altercations between customers, and 49% have witnessed physical altercations between customers during Covid-19.

“Retail workers urgently need more support to safeguard their personal safety. It’s extremely concerning that a huge proportion of retail staff simply don’t feel safe in the workplace, especially in the current environment,” says Martyn Jones, Director, VoCoVo.

“Life on the frontline can be tough for retail workers but tools are available to help protect them. Retail bosses must take greater accountability over their staff’s safety and ensure they feel empowered, connected and importantly, can summon help when they need it. At VoCoVo we are proud that results among our own customer base show staff feel 176% safer as a result of voice communications technology.”

It is not just physical safety that UK retail workers are concerned about but security and risk too, with over a third (38%) experiencing store theft during Covid-19. Worryingly 90% also admitted to feeling vulnerable at work, with the main reasons for feeling at risk listed as being outnumbered by customers (37%), working alone (33%), being unable to communicate with security or co-workers (33%) or when customers are unhappy or abusive (32%).

The study, carried out by independent research house Censuswide, asked 251 retail workers in retailers with over 100 UK stores who have worked in retail for at least six months. 

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