Over half of Irish retail workers have witnessed a colleague being assaulted

The shocking statistics show verbal and physical abuse by customers is a major issue for retail staff across the country.

Photo: Getty Images© Getty Images

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

Half of Irish retail workers have witnessed a customer physically assault one of their co-workers, new research has revealed.

The shocking statistics gathered by Circle K show that 83pc of Irish retail workers surveyed nationwide have experienced some form of abuse from customers.

Harassment is a big issue for staff, with over four in five Circle K employees admitting they have seen a customer verbally abuse colleagues.

Circle K surveyed 380 of its own staff and a further 500 people employed across a broad range of retail settings throughout Ireland.

The retailer is urging customers to understand the impact of their behaviour on staff.

Of those who have experienced harassment, 70pc of workers admit their tough time with some customers has made them consider seeking work outside of retail.

Another cause for concern is the third of staff who say they have experienced harassment based on their gender and the 34pc of Circle K employees who say it was based on race.

Gordon Lawlor, the managing director of Circle K Ireland, says the retailer has seen the issue “develop first-hand.”

“While the vast majority of our customers behave appropriately, we are increasingly seeing incidents of unacceptable behaviour by certain customers towards our colleagues,” he said.

“Our research clearly demonstrates that this issue is not just confined to Circle K and is a challenge for the wider retail sector at large.

“As a company, we care about our colleagues and are committed to creating an environment where they are treated correctly,” he added.

“Being kind and respectful towards workers in retail settings should be the norm and, in our society, we really should not have to remind people of the need to behave in the right way.”

The level of harassment being reported by retail staff was described as “an enormous concern” by the Director of Retail Ireland, Arnold Dillon.

"The survey highlighted some very serious issues, including incidence of physical assault and verbal abuse, that retail workers have had to contend with,” he said.

“The consequences for staff are very real, including mental health issues, burnout and increased absence.

"At a time when there are labour shortages in many parts of the sector, it’s important that everything is done to make the sector an attractive place to work.

"We all have a part to play in supporting retail employees and together reducing the levels of harassment.”

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