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The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) has welcomed the fact that the issue of increasing attacks on retailers during the Covid pandemic has been raised in parliament.

The MP for Blaydon, Liz Twist, asked the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, to open a debate on the matter in parliament yesterday (January 28).

Mrs Twist said: “Shop workers, particularly those in supermarkets and other food stores, have really been on the frontline during this pandemic, keeping us supplied with the essentials of life. They do not have the option of working from home.

“Yet, too often, retail workers face abuse and poor treatment from a few customers. Just yesterday, one of my staff witnessed a shop worker being spat at for asking someone to wear a mask going into the store. Can we have a debate in Government time on the impact of covid-19 on retail workers?”

While he praised retailers for their work to continue providing an essential service to people all over the UK, Mr Rees-Mogg stressed that attacks on retailers and shop workers should be dealt with through existing laws.

He said: “The protection of the vital work done by people in supermarkets is one that we should not forget. We often talk about the vital work done by people in the emergency services, but, actually, during this pandemic, ensuring that people have access to the necessities of life has been courageously done by shop workers across the country.

“They are protected by the normal law, and if somebody has spat at a worker in a supermarket, that is illegal and the police should be notified and the law should be enforced. Certainly, the Government will do everything they can to encourage the correct enforcement of the law.”

NFRN National President Stuart Reddish welcomed these comments, but insisted that more needs to be done to protect retailers and their staff.

He said: “Independent retailers have been and continue to be at the frontline during this crisis, and have to deal with physical and verbal threats on a near daily basis for simply doing their jobs.

“We will continue to lobby the government to tighten the law so that any form of attack on shop workers is taken more seriously and has more stringent penalties for those who commit such crimes.”

On January 19, the Scottish Parliament passed the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill, introduced by MSP Daniel Johnson.

The new legislation makes attacking a store worker a specific offence, while assaults or abuse relating to the sale of age-restricted products – such as alcohol or tobacco – also become an aggravating factor in law, attracting higher penalties for perpetrators

The NFRN is calling on MPs in Westminster to now support the Assaults on Retail Workers (Offences) Bill presented by Alex Norris MP in 2020.

Mr Reddish added: “The rules around the enforcing of Covid-19 regulations have strengthened the case for the need for this law more than ever. We now urge MPs to introduce a similar law to safeguard all shop workers across the whole of the UK by backing Mr Norris’s Bill.”

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