MORE than 90 per cent of retail staff have been assaulted, threatened or abused over the last year, according to union Usdaw. At the height of the pandemic, there were 455 assaults on retail workers every single day.

These statistics may sound shocking to us, but it is the real, lived experience of the vast majority of employees who are just trying to get on with their job.

These are workers who are often not well paid, without any form of stab-proof vests, body-worn cameras or self-defence training. Many are students working their first job stacking shelves, or semi-retired people working the tills to top up their income, or parents who are trying to make ends meet.

Regardless of who they are, these people rolled up their sleeves in our hour of need. While we all retreated to the safety of our homes during the pandemic, they were out there making sure that we could get our essentials and put food on our tables.

It is sad that a select few decided to terrorise these heroes instead of showing them the gratitude they deserve.

As a former retail worker myself, I have witnessed first-hand the extraordinary abuse levelled at retail staff. From spitting to physically assaulting, some of these outbursts are hard to comprehend. If I thought that was bad, I struggle to think how rough shop workers must have had it over the past couple of years.

When we talk about this depressing issue as politicians, we need to accept something: these shop workers are not being assaulted simply because they are wearing an Asda, Co-op or Tesco uniform. They’re assaulted because they are upholding the rules; telling people to wear a face mask, enforcing social distancing and verifying people’s age. They are undertaking statutory duties that we, as Parliamentarians, have placed upon them.

It is only right, fair and just that we give them protection under the law in return.

That’s why I’m delighted that a few weeks ago the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was voted through the House of Commons. Alongside the welcome and far-reaching changes this Bill makes to deliver justice and make our communities safer, we also saw the passing of the amendment that I and retail chiefs, unions and workers have campaigned for to give more protection to retail workers.

This part of the Bill places a statutory duty on courts when sentencing offenders for assaults on workers providing a public service to treat that fact as an aggravating factor, meaning that those who dare to mistreat a retail worker again will find themselves rightly facing tougher punishments.

As the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Retail, I am proud to have played my part to change the law and deliver long overdue justice for retail staff across the country. It is right that they now have statutory protections.

L Matt Vickers is the Conservative MP for Stockton South