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by Louise Wilson
20 January 2021
Protection of Workers Bill passed

Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/PA Images

Protection of Workers Bill passed

A new law to protect retail staff from assault while at work has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Protection of Workers Bill, brought forward by Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, creates a new statutory offence of assaulting, threatening or abusing a retail worker.

The bill was backed unanimously by MSPs, despite some concerns in its early stages that creating a new law was unnecessary as workers were covered by existing protections.

Retail trade union USDAW has welcomed the passage of the “ground-breaking” law.

Speaking after the vote, Johnson said: “For too long retail workers have been expected to put up with violence and abuse. That many see it as part of the job is completely unacceptable. My bill will give retail workers the protection they deserve.

 “This pandemic has seen retail on the front line; performing critical roles, supplying the basic essentials to all of us and keeping us safe as we do so. With us now living under another national lockdown, it’s more important than ever that our essential retail workers are properly supported.”

Research from USDAW estimated fifteen retail workers were assaulted each day in Scotland, with one in three shopworkers saying they had been threatened.

It is also believed threats and abuse has increase since the COVID pandemic.

Paddy Lillis, USDAW general secretary, said: “The Scottish Parliament is leading the way on protection of shopworkers by passing this bill. It is a great result for our members in Scotland, who will now have the protection of the law that they deserve. We are grateful to Daniel Johnson for steering this important legislation through the parliament.

“We have been deeply disappointed with the UK Government’s response to our campaign, offering little more than sympathy and their objecting to protection of shopworkers legislation. So we are looking for MPs to support key workers across the retail sector and help turn around the UK Government’s opposition.”

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