A high number (83%) of retail workers in Ireland have experienced incidents of harassment at work, with 68% experiencing incidents at least once a month, research shows.
Notably – and of concern for the retail sector – of those who have experienced incidents of harassment, 70% of retail workers admit that their experience(s) of harassment from customers has made them consider seeking employment outside of retail.
The research commissioned by Circle K surveyed 380 of its own colleagues working across its network of locations in Ireland and 500 people employed across a broad range of retail settings in Ireland.
According to the forecourt and convenience retailer, the research is designed to highlight the issue of unacceptable customer behaviour towards staff in retail settings, with Circle K strongly urging the public to consider the impact of their behaviour on retail workers.
Commenting on the research findings, Gordon Lawlor, managing director of Circle K Ireland, said, ”As Ireland’s largest forecourt and convenience retailer, we have seen this issue develop first-hand, and while the vast majority of our customers behave appropriately, we are increasingly seeing incidents of unacceptable behaviour by certain customers towards our colleagues.
“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.”
Physical Assault And Verbal Abuse
Physical assault is another serious issue that the research highlights, with 50% of Irish retail workers having witnessed a colleague being physically assaulted by a customer.
Meanwhile, over four in five Circle K employees (83%) report witnessing customers verbally abuse colleagues.
Another 69% of Circle K retail employees report that they have seen fellow colleagues experience inappropriate behaviour, such as verbal abuse, when dealing with customers.
Gender- And Race-Based Harassment
Almost a third of retail workers (28%) and almost a fifth of Circle K retail employees (18%) say that the harassment that they have experienced from customers was based on gender.
A further 34% of Circle K retail employees say that they have experienced incidents of harassment based on race.
Arnold Dillon, director of Retail Ireland, added, “The level of harassment toward retail staff is an enormous concern. The survey highlighted some very serious issues – including incidents of physical assault and verbal abuse – that retail workers have had to contend with.
“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.”