Shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw has called for social distancing in shops to stay at two metres, as agreed in a tripartite process involving the union, retailers and the Government.

Usdaw calls for any changes to the joint safety guidance for retail to only be done through further discussion and agreement.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“The safety of our members and the public is our top priority, so Usdaw worked with the British Retail Consortium on joint safety guidance for shops based on the 2-metre rule. Retailers have to publish risk assessments and implement robust safety measures and it appears that they have taken that seriously and are complying.

“Reducing the 2-metre rule in stores could be disastrous for our members and send a message to the public that social distancing is over. It has taken a lot of hard work and effort to make the changes to encourage customers to follow 2-metre distancing in shops that stayed open throughout the lockdown. Non-essential retailers have also redesigned their stores on the basis of 2-metre social distancing for their reopening. Changing the rules would be an unnecessary burden on business, compromise the safety of staff and customers and create confusion.

“There is plenty of evidence to show that 2-metre separation is at least twice as safe as 1-metre. Independent SAGE warns that the risk of transmission is still too high to reduce social distancing rules indoors. Apart from the increased risk of infection, there is also likely to be a rise in violence and abuse because of the confusion it will cause. One of the triggers for abuse of staff at present is conflict between customers when someone is perceived to be getting too close and not following the rules. This is likely to get worse once a change is announced.

“Covid-19 is still a killer disease that is at large in our communities. Retail has adapted well to the new circumstances, it is not necessary to change the 2-metre rule and it certainly shouldn’t be done without full discussion and agreement.”

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK’s fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

Independent SAGE press release: Review of scientific evidence on 2-metre versus 1-metre social distancing

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