The CEO of the prominent supermarket chain, Ken Murphy, has announced a significant step to protect its essential workers in response to a disturbing increase in physical assaults, which have risen by one-third compared to the same period last year.
In a recent op-ed for the Mail on Sunday, Mr. Murphy highlighted that these wrongdoers, though limited in number, exert a disproportionately negative impact on their staff. Over the past four years, Tesco has invested a substantial £44 million in various security measures, including door access systems, protective screens, digital radios, and extensive surveillance camera networks.
Mr. Murphy emphasized that the funds allocated to ensure the safety of employees are always a valuable investment. However, he expressed his frustration that such measures should even be necessary, branding crime as a societal scourge and an affront to both shoppers and retail workers alike.
In his impassioned plea, the retail leader asserted that it is high time to put an end to this alarming trend, deeming the increase in incidents as “unacceptable” and condemning its detrimental effects on the workforce. He called for legislative change across the UK, making abuse or violence against retail workers a criminal offense, firmly stating, “We cannot continue like this.”
Furthermore, Mr. Murphy urged the judiciary to utilize the existing legal provisions that categorize attacks on shop workers as aggravating factors in convictions, thereby ensuring longer sentences for offenders. Yet, he contended that the UK should follow Scotland’s example by enacting specific laws against abuse or violence towards retail employees.
The Tesco CEO also advocated for enhanced collaboration with law enforcement agencies and demanded that businesses be granted the right to access information on the progress of cases involving crimes committed within their stores. He argued that such access would facilitate the identification of patterns and provide reassurance that justice is being served.
Tesco now joins the ranks of Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and Co-op, which began offering body cameras to their staff two years ago out of concern for their safety. These efforts reflect the troubling statistics published by the British Retail Consortium in March, revealing a surge in attacks on retail staff, encompassing racial and sexual abuse, physical assaults, and threats involving weapons. These incidents have now exceeded 850 per day, nearly double the pre-COVID levels of 450 daily occurrences.
Last summer, a coalition of 100 retail executives penned a joint letter to 41 Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, urging them to prioritize retail-related crime in their local policing strategies.