Retail & Consumer

Harassment in Retail Survey

Harassment in retail is more prevalent than you might think. Shopworkers have been at the forefront of keeping the nation fed and clothed throughout the pandemic, working long hours and designated as keyworkers, as the country responded to COVID-19.

As the pandemic brought more attention to those customer facing roles, we conducted a survey of over 1,000 retail workers to gather their opinions and feelings on harassment within their work environment.

The full report reflects on what the data means for the retail industry and what it might mean for the strategies you employ to bolster the protection and support you offer your employees.

A queue of people outside a shop observing social distancing

How Covid-19 has changed behaviours

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic placed a strain on many of the people who worked in a retail environment. They headed out to work knowing they would be surrounded by people, while others were being told to stay at home.

The stories of physical, sexual and verbal harassment experienced in the retail workplace during this period are both unpleasant and concerning.

Dealing with customers

The Foot Anstey survey found that 61% had experienced some form of offensive behaviour while working for their current employer, with many reporting mental health impacts, such as stress, anxiety and a loss of self-esteem.

Culture and response

The survey asked all respondents how they felt about their current employers’ HR services/grievance processes.

The results show a level of confidence in the protocols and guidance retailers had in place but some did report a lack of understanding about what policies were in place and how a complaint would be handled.

Our findings

Frontline workers face daily harassment

“Our 2021 study paints an unpleasant picture of the experiences of many retail workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is concerning to see that the majority of these keyworkers faced physical, sexual or verbal harassment as they went about their daily work, and that significant numbers experienced mental health issues as a direct result. Many of these people fall into the 18-34 age bracket, the group widely reported as being at greatest risk of suffering with mental health issues.”

Nathan Peacey Partner and Head of Retail

“Many of our colleagues have been coughed at or spat on.”

British Retail Consortium (BRC), Open Letter to the UK Government, July 2021

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