From betting shops and kennels to supermarkets and doctors surgeries – one in three workers (32%) say they’ve been a victim of abuse by the public at work. And more than half of Brits (55%) have witnessed a verbal or physical assault often trying to intervene (43%) themselves.

Typically, the incident has happened in a retail store (44%) but also in restaurants, cafes on public transport and in hospitals and ‘kicked off’ with a row over customer service or people being drunk.

Research published today by Little Green Button reveals the mental and physical impact felt by staff with almost two thirds (65%) saying it’s made them anxious and around half that it has affected their mental health.

Often workers say they don’t feel supported by their employers or colleagues (51%) with around half saying they want better training to deal with assaults (46%) or other measures like a security guard or panic button.

The research follows a recent NHS Staff survey report which found that more than a third of doctors have recently experienced verbal abuse and sometimes physical threats. In hospitals, it was most often nurses who were abused, while of GPs had seen it happen to receptionists. Some NHS workers reported hiding their badges in public.

MD of Little Green Button, Alex Jay commented: “Our statistics, highlight the extent of the harassment, violence and abuse that frontline staff face. This isn’t a new issue and we feel that more needs to be done through policy, legislation and innovation to keep staff safe. With a specific standalone offence for assault on emergency workers, other staff working with the general public deserve the same level of protection. We implore those responsible for policy and legislation to reconsider their current stance as this is an ongoing issue with a tangible impact on workers physical and mental health.”
Andrew Goodacre, CEO for the British Independent Retailers Association, commented: “The research by Little Green Button is yet more evidence of the abuse experienced by retail staff. This has been a problem for some time and the pandemic made a difficult situation even worse. The current fuel shortage is also giving rise to customers venting their frustration on staff who are only trying to do their job. The government has an opportunity to protect those who work in retail by changing the law to offer retail workers more protection.”