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Usdaw urges retailers to maintain existing two-metre social distancing in stores

Shopworkers trade union Usdaw is urging retailers to maintain social distancing in shops at two metres, as agreed in joint safety guidance, after Boris Johnson announced a “one metre plus” rule for situations where two metre distancing cannot be observed.

In a speech in parliament yesterday (23 June), the PM said that while maintaining at least a two-metre distance is still “recommended where possible”, the official guidance will be updated to recommend “one-metre-plus” where necessary, if “mitigations” such as face masks are used.

He said the government does not believe there is “currently a risk of a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS”.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary said the trade union has worked with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) on joint safety guidance for shops based on the two-metre rule and in its experience retailers have taken that seriously and are complying.

He said: “It has taken a lot of hard work and effort to make the changes to encourage customers to follow social distancing of two metres in shops that stayed open throughout the lockdown. 

“Non-essential retailers have also redesigned their stores on the basis of two-metre social distancing for their reopening. So we urge retailers to maintain their existing safety measures. Retail is working well under the two-metre rule, it is not necessary to reduce to one metre, which could compromise the safety of staff and customers and create confusion.”

He added: “Safety in stores also needs customer cooperation and I am shocked that abuse of shopworkers has doubled during the coronavirus emergency.

“It is a disgrace that a minority behave this way, at a time when we should be pulling together to get through this appalling pandemic and we urge customers to observe social distancing. At no time should abuse be a part of the job. Shopworkers deserve respect.” 

The news comes as Usdaw welcomed reports that the government will not be pressing ahead with plans to deregulate Sunday trading hours having listened to the arguments.

During the pandemic, Usdaw titled government plans for Sunday trading deregulation as a “slap in the face” for key workers and called out the government failing to provide a “proper strategy” to help the retail industry.

This move to deregulate Sunday trading hours would come across as an opportunistic use of the coronavirus crisis and a slap in the face for each and every worker in retail.

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