As the new law to protect those in public facing roles comes into force research suggests that most employers are underestimating the personal safety fears of almost 7 million workers. Naz Dossa, chair of the Lone Working Group for the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), looks at how personal safety is an issue that affects more than just vulnerable or frontline staff.
New provisions to make attacking an individual who serves the public an aggravated offence came into force in June 2022 with the aim to deter offences against retail staff through tougher penalties. A much-needed measure, as offences continue to rise in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. But just how widespread are the safety fears of the UK’s workforce, frontline or otherwise?
Research commissioned by Peoplesafe into perceptions of personal safety at work, has found that 6.8 million workers worry about their safety each week, while many employers continue to underestimate the level of concern (57%).
In the survey, two thirds of employees questioned said they would take up a personal safety solution if offered and 50% of workers would consider a frontline role if equipped with safety tech, suggesting that the pool of candidates for a role could measurably increase with personal safety technology built into a job offer or role.
Law protecting frontline workers against violence takes effect
The overriding message from the study is that personal safety concerns are increasingly widespread and no longer just affect more vulnerable employees, such as frontline or lone workers.
We now know that one in five workers, employed across a wide range of sectors, worries about their personal safety at least once a week and that negative experiences involving safety issues will often be a key contributing factor to the decision to leave a job. Nearly a third (29%) said they would not consider a public facing role because of personal safety concerns, effectively reducing the talent pool by a quarter.
Outside the basic duty of care, some employers already recognise the commercial benefit that employee peace of mind and personal safety brings to a business. Already well-documented is the fact that better worker satisfaction and wellbeing is related to higher rates of productivity. Considering these latest findings, it’s now clear that benefits could include increased rates of staff retention and recruitment.
As policy makers and businesses across the UK face a recruitment and retention challenge in front-line roles, the research shows that businesses want to do more to protect their employees, but that many struggle to know how. While some are increasing salaries, introducing bonus schemes and bulking out their benefits packages, what are they doing to address personal safety?
The stats highlight that employees who experience a negative event at work or on their commute are 9% less satisfied across the board and therefore more likely to leave their job. Over a third (38%) of employers surveyed didn’t know how to tackle this issue. Yet it’s an issue that could be tackled relatively simply, with clearly fixed protocols, processes, and the use of effective security measures. In some sectors, the cost of rollout could prove significantly less than the cost of high staff turnover. According to research by Oxford Economics and Unum, the average cost of turnover per employee (earning £25,000 a year or more) is £3,061.
In the retail sector alone, on average, stores spent £3,724 on crime prevention measures in 2021, including CCTV, security staff and intruder alarms. Employers should be asking: how much do these measures actually increase the feeling of safety for workers when they are all pretty standard things to have in place?
Improving levels of employee safety is one untapped staff retention tool that could make a prospective job more appealing for workers across any sector in the longer term.
The good news is that the low-cost security measures already exist. The most effective are personal safety alarms that provide a strong level of protection, can support the prevention of incidents, and critically manage issues. Where CCTV systems may cost thousands of pounds, for example, many personal safety alarms are now the price of a cup of coffee and offer instant access to an emergency response.
Post Covid, our working environments continue to evolve at an accelerated rate and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the entire workforce is nothing short of essential to businesses. For many people ‘the workplace’ is now no longer a single ‘safe’ building: it could be a vehicle, the kitchen, or a shared workspace.
The workforce is speaking out and they’re making their feelings clear. Practical measures for safer working conditions are no longer just a nice-to-have.
Peoplesafe’s survey was conducted with 2,081 non-vulnerable and potentially vulnerable workers. Download the report here.
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