Tesco is introducing new protective screens at hundreds of Express stores and petrol station kiosks in a further bid to protect its colleagues from assault.

The supermarket, which has already rolled out body cameras across its stores as part of a range of measures to protect colleagues, is making the move amid a rising tide of retail crime, with British Retail Consortium figures showing violence and abuse towards retail workers has doubled in the last four years. 

The toughened glass screens, which fully enclose the colleague side of the till and stand above head-height, have already been installed at more than 110 Tesco sites, and are now being rolled out to more than 250 additional stores as part of a multi-million-pound investment in colleague safety. 

The screens put a defensive barrier between colleagues and potential attackers, protecting shop workers against both physical assault and from the threat of having liquids or other items thrown at them.

Tesco UK CEO Jason Tarry said: “The rise in retail crime has been widely talked about in recent weeks, but the most troubling aspect is the surge in assaults and abuse we have seen against our colleagues in stores.  

“This is something impacting the whole retail industry, and something too many of my colleagues have had to endure first-hand, with incidents of violence against our colleagues up by a third year-on-year. 

“The safety of our colleagues is our number one priority. That is why we have rolled out a number of measures, including these screens, to help protect our colleagues from the small minority of people who would do them harm, and offer them additional peace of mind when they come into work each day.” 

Nisa Wickramasinghe, the manager of an Express store in Southwark, is among the Tesco colleagues glad to see the screens put in place. She had found herself shaken by an incident in which an attacker jumped over the counter and behind the till, forcing her to jump over the counter herself to escape.“Now we have the screen I feel a lot safer to come to work and so do my colleagues,” she said. 

Last year, the Government made attacking shopworkers an aggravating factor in convictions, meaning stronger sentences for those who assault retail workers.

But Tesco’s Group CEO Ken Murphy recently asked the Government to go further and make violence against retail workers an offence in its own right. 

Retail union Usdaw’s National Officer Daniel Adams backed the latest move by Tesco and the calls for a specific offence.

“Usdaw has been working closely with Tesco on measures that the business can take to improve safety and welcomes the introduction of these additional security measures for employees,” he said. “However, this is not something that can be solved by employers and unions alone. With such appallingly high levels of violence and abuse much more needs to be done to help protect shopworkers and give them the respect they deserve. Part of this has to be the introduction of a specific offence for acts of violence against shopworkers.”