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Lone Working in Retail

Lone Working in Retail

Anyone that’s worked in the retail sector is well aware of how varied and wide-ranging the job roles are, this also means that the nature of risk faced by employees can differ greatly. Despite this, lone working is not instantly associated with the retail sector. This is because many people associate lone workers as employees who work away from their base or office, but it’s important to remember that lone workers can be just as exposed when working alone in a retail environment.

There’s a great deal of lone working roles in retail which can include, key holders, in-store staff, warehouse staff, delivery drivers, distribution operators and many more. Due to the nature of retail, lone working is not always obvious; it can happen in pockets throughout the day. A shop assistant may pop to the warehouse alone, a key holder will likely be the first person on site in the morning, and last thing at night, or an in-store member of staff may be alone while lunch breaks are being covered.

There are many risks associated with lone working in the retail sector therefore it’s essential that a company takes its duty of care seriously. This is especially important in smaller retail stores, with low staff numbers and unsociable opening hours. Physical violence or assault, followed closely by the risks of accident or injury, and verbal threats are among the most common risks to lone working retail staff.

Employees in the retail sector can be subjected to abuse from antagonistic or aggrieved members of the public or customers, however, in a recent case in Northern Ireland the abuse came from different source altogether.

The Belfast Telegraph recently reported that Lee McCausland admitted pursuing a course of conduct amounting to harassment between May 9 and June 8 this year. Lee met his victim while carrying out community service in a charity shop. Whilst there, Lee “took a shine” to a female member of staff. Despite the victim making it abundantly clear that his behaviour was unacceptable, he continued to bombard her with inappropriate messages and displayed behavioural traits tantamount to stalking.

Stalking should be taken extremely seriously, it can cause the victim to feel huge distress, it can also have a massive emotional impact on those it affects and it can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder. In this case the victim felt great distress, due, in part, to her being a lone worker for several days of the week.

Verbal abuse and violence directed towards retail staff remains at an unacceptable level. Compared with last year, the BRC Retail Crime Survey 2016 reported a 40% rise on these types of incidents. It should go without saying that if your workforce feels threatened when they come to work, they’re not performing anywhere near their optimum level, but more importantly, you as an employer are not meeting your duty of care.

The retail sector faces many challenges, but physical violence and abuse aimed at its employees has to be one of its most important. As with all industries, your workforce is your most important asset, therefore protecting them must be a priority. This becomes even more important when those members of staff don’t have the usual avenues of support or protection.

To find out more about protecting your lone workers please click here.


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