People in public-facing jobs have experienced rising hostility and verbal abuse since the end of the Covid lockdowns, according to organisations that represent them.
Half of all shop, transport, restaurant and hotel workers and others dealing regularly with the public have experienced abuse in the past six months, figures from the Institute for Customer Service (ICS) show. This is a 6% rise over May’s 44%. Of those who had been abused, 27% had been physically attacked, it found.
The research comes as trade unions and industry bodies warned of growing public hostility towards workers since the second Covid wave.
Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, said 88% of its members had been verbally abused in the past year, up from 68% in 2019, and that 9% had been physically assaulted. RMT said 58% of workers on trains, buses and ferries had been threatened, assaulted or spat at since the pandemic began, and 88% had been verbally abused.
The British Retail Consortium said incidents of violence and abuse had risen to 455 a day in 2020-21 compared with 350 a day in 2017-18.
“Hostility towards customer-facing staff has continued even though we’re out of lockdown,” said ICS’s chief executive Jo Causon. “Around half of employees don’t report hostility because they don’t think it will make any difference. They don’t think the police will act, and they feel it is part of their job to receive abuse.”
The impact on their mental health and wellbeing was severe and many had left their jobs as a result, Causon said, with many leaving their jobs as a result. With 61% of the workforce in public-facing roles, there is also an economic cost in staff turnover and sick days, which the ICS puts at £33bn a year.
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