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Concern for Staff as Coronavirus Measures Add to Risk of Abuse

Research from commercial insurer NFU Mutual reveals that 40% of customers have witnessed a staff member suffer verbal or physical abuse at a hospitality or retail venue in the last year.  The news follows concerns for the wellbeing of customer-facing staff as lockdown measures begin to ease.

Supermarkets are the worst affected, with 31% of customers witnessing an incident there, followed by high street shops (20%), pubs (18%) and restaurants (16%).

The research further revealed that 60% percent of customers have experienced increased anxiety visiting a hospitality or retail venue over the last year. Supermarket visits caused the most worry, with 43% reporting increased anxiety when visiting these venues, followed by pubs (34%), restaurants (33%) and high street shops (32%) – the same four venues worst affected by abuse incidents.

Darren Seward, Hospitality Sector Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “It’s a difficult time for many. Health concerns, lockdown fatigue and changing restrictions mean that customer emotions are already running high during a visit to a hospitality venue. The correlation between customer anxiety and abuse incidents suggests that these heightened emotions are translating to an increased risk for customer-facing staff.

“Nobody should have to suffer abuse in the workplace, especially when enforcing company – and in some cases legal – requirements. Our research shows that Coronavirus measures have been at the root of many abuse incidents in the last year, with 23% of consumers having witnessed incidents related to mask challenges, and 22% reporting issues resulting from social distancing rules.

“As hospitality venues start to re-open, and with many already starting to get booked up, the disappointment of missing out may strain customer emotions even further, putting staff at increased risk.”

Despite ongoing cause for concern, almost half of businesses surveyed by NFU Mutual do not take any measures to minimise the risk of workplace violence.

Darren commented: “Taking action to prevent customer-facing violence is a crucial step in protecting staff welfare. Insurance can provide cover against legal action, injuries and property damage, but businesses should make additional preparations.

“We would urge employers to put tailored measures in place, especially provision of appropriate staff training.  Not only does training ensure staff are prepared to deal with incidents, it could prove important to a business’s reputation, and influence a consumer’s future spending habits. Forty percent of consumers said they would be more likely to return to a venue if an abuse incident was well-handled.”