Holyrood's Economy, Energy & Fair Work Committee has backed the general principles of the Protection of Workers Bill in its stage 1 report on the bill, published today.

The bill, whose full title is the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill, is a member's bill introduced by Labour MSP Daniel Johnson. It seeks to increase protection for retail workers selling age-restricted goods such as alcohol.

While taking evidence the committee heard compelling stories of the unacceptable violence, threats and aggression that retail workers are subject to. Members were told that workers who sell age-restricted goods have a special role in upholding the law and this can sometimes trigger violence and abuse.

Further, shop workers do not always report these crimes. Some workers think it is a normal part of their job or believe that it will not be taken seriously by their employer or the police. The committee heard that there needs to be greater awareness of the scale and seriousness of these crimes among members of the public, retail staff, retail employers and the police.

However the committee has invited Mr Johnson to work proactively with the Scottish Government to help address reservations that the committee has with regard to the legislation. 

Committee convener Michelle Ballantyne MSP commented: "Retail workers have always played a key role in Scotland’s communities; however, the role that they have played over the last few months has been phenomenal. More than 375,000 people in Scotland work in the retail sector and all of them deserve our thanks. They have been at the heart of members’ consideration of this bill. 

"The abuse that retail workers face every day just for doing their jobs is completely unacceptable. Each incident is one too many and the Committee welcomes the bill’s aim to provide greater protection, especially where retail workers are enforcing age restrictions. Abuse must be taken seriously and crimes must be reported to ensure that these matters are given the priority they deserve.”

She added: "However we are also clear that this bill is far from the finished article. Work needs to be done to ensure that the bill increases protection for retail workers in a clear, enforceable way.

"I look forward to the member working with the Scottish Government before the committee considers the bill at stage 2."