Cost of living crisis and pandemic cause shop floor workers’ stress levels to rise but pay is still not equal

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With retail crime and violence against staff becoming more common, shop floor workers roles are becoming more stressful. In this blog, employment solicitor Lara Kennedy questions why increased pressure is not fairly reflected in pay.

Working in a supermarket has always been a demanding job, but with the rise of online shopping, the pandemic, and now the cost-of-living crisis, the difficulties of the job are greater than ever.

But as the pressures of the job change, one thing that remains the same is the fact that shop floor workers earn less than their colleagues in distribution centres.

Retail crime is nothing new. As one of our clients, who works in an Asda petrol station, told us told us: “People who work in the warehouse don’t have to deal with the public so they’re not under the same stress as we are. We have people driving off without paying which means we’re in contact with the police and trawling through CCTV.”

It is this point that Leigh Day keeps coming back to. Yes, work in distribution centres is physically demanding, but it doesn’t come with the added challenge of dealing with customers, from helping them find what they’re looking for, to dealing with thefts like the above client explains.

And in the last year the situation has got worse. A recent survey revealed that incidents of shoplifting have risen by 22% in the last year. Given such a sharp increase, it is unsurprising that Tesco recently stated it will be increasing security measures across its stores as “desperate people seek desperate measures”.

While supermarket bosses might be concerned with the dent shoplifting puts in their profits, they should also consider the added pressure incidents put on their staff who are on the ground dealing with the problem.

Theft is not the only crime shop floor workers are faced with. A survey by trade association, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) found that abuse against retail workers almost tripled in one year with 1,300 incidents per day in 2020 to 2021.

Such a steep rise has resulted in tougher penalties against customers who attack shop floor workers. Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, abuse against individuals who serve the public is now an aggravated offence.

It is never acceptable to experience violence and abuse in any setting, but it is perhaps more shocking when it is in your workplace. Clearly strengthening the law in this area shows that the courts recognise this. Yet supermarket bosses seem to ignore new challenges that arise and disproportionately affect shop floor workers.

As the roles of shop floor workers evolve, so must supermarket bosses’ attitude to pay. It’s time to move away from the outdated opinion that the work of store staff is not of equal value to that of their distribution workers. How many more crises do they have to work through before they receive the pay their hard work deserves?

Click here for more information about the Equal Pay Now claims and how you can join 

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