The Royal Society for Public Health’s ‘Service With(out) a Smile’ research report states that 96% of workers in the UK hospitality sector have experienced some kind of mistreatment at work with verbal abuse from customers identified as the most common source (74%).
This prompted NFU Mutual to explore the impact of retail violence.
Its research, with more than 2,000 respondents from across the UK, found that nearly half of consumers (48%) had witnessed some form of abuse towards customer-facing staff in the past three years ranging from customers belittling or being patronising, cursing and shouting, to physical attacks on employees.
Across the UK hospitality sector pubs, restaurants and bars were the most common places for customers to witness incidents of retail violence at 28%, followed by cafés (19%) and hotels (15%).
Young adults were the most likely to identify instances of abuse, particularly in pubs, bars and restaurants, with 51% of 18 to 24 year-olds noting incidents, 23% more than the 28% average.
Four out of five consumers (83%) expect hospitality staff to have the necessary training to effectively manage a verbally- or physically-abusive customer. Despite this over a quarter (29%) of customer-facing businesses surveyed said that they’re not actively taking any measures to protect their staff.
Where measures were taken, they included having a policy statement, installing CCTV or always doubling up on staff.
A consultation is currently underway in England and Wales that proposes new laws with better protection for retail workers involved in the sale or supply of age-restricted goods or services.
Nearly three-quarters of businesses (74%) surveyed by NFU Mutual agreed with the proposed changes.
“With Christmas fast approaching, it’s vital for employers to ensure their staff are prepared for potential incidents,” said NFU Mutual’s Hospitality Sector Specialist Darren Seward, “The sale of age-restricted goods and services have proven to be a major trigger-point for incidents of violence or verbal abuse against hospitality workers. The Festive period sees more social events hosted across the sector, increasing footfall and providing more opportunity for this kind of conflict.”
The NFU Mutual study also found that 74% of consumers would either physically (34%) or verbally (40%) intervene if a member of staff was being attacked by another customer.
While these good intentions are commendable, they present a challenge for businesses as such situations could very easily get out of control.
A third of customers (31%) wouldn’t revisit a store that handled an incident of violence poorly.
“A poorly-handled incident can damage reputation and make customers think twice about revisiting” Darren continued, “while a well-handled incident could even help to encourage visits. Although insurance can provide cover against legal action, injuries and property damage, the best option is always preparation.”
A panic alarm can be a great tool for staff to respond to the threat of violent crime when it happens. It silently notifies the authorities who can respond very quickly, points out NFU.