Scottish Parliament committee approves Protection of Workers Bill

The Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee has announced its unanimous support for the general principles of the ‘Protection of Workers Bill’ which seeks to increase protection for retail workers.

While taking evidence, the committee heard stories of the unacceptable violence, threats and aggression that retail workers are subject to. The committee was told that workers who sell age-restricted goods have a special role in upholding the law and this can sometimes trigger violence and abuse.

The committee was also concerned to hear that shop workers do not always report these crimes. Some workers think it is a normal part of their job or believe that it will not be taken seriously by their employer or the police. It also heard that there needs to be greater awareness of the scale and seriousness of these crimes among members of the public, retail staff, retail employers and the police.

Michelle Ballantyne MSP, committee convener, said: “Retail workers have always played a key role in Scotland’s communities; however, the role that they have played over the last few months has been phenomenal. More than 375,000 people in Scotland work in the retail sector and all of them deserve our thanks. They have been at the heart of members’ consideration of this bill.

“The abuse that retail workers face every day just for doing their jobs is completely unacceptable. Each incident is one too many and the Committee welcomes the bill’s aim to provide greater protection, especially where retail workers are enforcing age restrictions. Abuse must be taken seriously and crimes must be reported to ensure that these matters are given the priority they deserve.”

While approving the general principles, the Committee has invited Daniel Johnson MSP to work proactively with the Scottish Government to help address reservations that the Committee has with regards to the legislation.

Commenting on the Committee’s decision, Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy at the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “Retail workers have played a vital role in keeping Scotland fed and supplied during the last few months. During that time, they have had to take on new legal duties, such as managing physical distancing in stores, along with the myriad of existing responsibilities. That has increased the pressure on those workers to enforce legislation on customers, creating further conflict and flashpoints which have led to workers being abused. That is always unacceptable and reaffirms the urgent case for legislation to protect shopworkers.

“The Economy Committee’s decision to support Daniel Johnson’s Bill at Stage One is a very positive step in that direction. There is still much to be done, but hopefully, Scotland can lead the way in putting in place legal shopworker protections and helping to tackle the unnecessary and disgraceful abuse far too many retail workers face.”

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