'It's become more common!' – Retail workers burning out because of customers' abuse

SHOP workers are burning out due to the pandemic, rising living costs and increasing levels of abuse from the public, according to The Retail Trust.

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The Retail Trust reports rising levels of aggression from the public to workers on the shop floor (Image: Getty)

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The charity, founded in 1832 to help workers in the sector, has seen a 90 per cent increase in demand for its services this year. It has run more than 13,000 counselling sessions, answered 25,000 helpline calls and paid out £1.2million in financial support payments, a 130 per cent increase on last year. Retail Trust chief executive Chris Brook-Carter said that the sector has had to cope with unprecedented levels of uncertainty and is now effectively dealing with a “stealth lockdown”, following the recent work from home edict from the Government.

In addition, shop workers have also had to deal with the stress of working through the pandemic and the financial pressures caused by the rising cost of living. Brook-Carter said the squeeze on their finances has left workers with hard choices about what bills to pay.

“What we have seen is a continuation of the ongoing levels of uncertainty the sector has faced over the last 18 months. We have lurched from crisis to crisis, it has been hard for the sector, we crave stability. We fear burnout across the industry because of it, it’s been incredibly difficult,” he said.

“They are suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, it is all linked to financial insecurity. People are having to make very difficult decisions, choosing between paying bills or rent.”

Rising levels of aggression from the public to workers on the shop floor and those in call centres answering customer helplines have not helped, he said. “We are seeing increasing levels of abuse. More are turning to us because of the abuse they have received in stores or call centres. It seems to have become more common to talk to people in an aggressive manner.”

Central England Co-op loss prevention manager Craig Goldie said: “Unfortunately, more of our retail colleagues have suffered from unacceptable verbal abuse and aggressive behaviour. We believe that each and every colleague should have the right to go to work and return home safely.

“Across the whole festive period we are asking customers to be kind to our colleagues, respect them and appreciate the sacrifices they are making to ensure everyone has the best Christmas possible.”

Shop workers can contact the Retail Trust’s helpline number 0808 801 0808 or visit their website

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