Staff abuse: How pubs react to racism, rants and rowdiness

By Oli Gross

- Last updated on GMT

Staff abuse: How pubs react to racism, rants and rowdiness

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Abuse to pub staff can come in many forms, and whether verbal or physical it can have a damaging impact on employees’ lives and a licensee’s business.

It’s not straight-forward to tackle incidents. Staff protection is vital but no pub wants to be associated with flashing lights and police sirens, so what are the options to avoid trouble escalating?


In some cases it’s obvious. On Saturday (November 14) a bar worker at Wetherspoon pub The Capitol in Dundee was subjected to racist abuse.

Luckily the venue has security staff, and the perpetrator was escorted outside and barred.

Wetherspoon said it has zero tolerance for racism.

A spokesman said: “A customer was asked for ID which he did not have. The customer started swearing and being racially abusive to the member of staff. He was making offensive noises.

“The member of staff was not attacked physically — the customer just put his hand up to the staff member’s face.”

Loyal Customers

But what should smaller venues do without the luxury of security?

Some pubs are blessed with caring customers - The King and Queen, Hamble, is a community pub with loyal regulars and a welcoming atmosphere.


The pub was the regional winner of Best Bar Team for the south east and London in the PMA​’s Great British Pub Awards this year.

The King and Queen has live music on Saturdays, and licensee Janet Bradley (above) said that on the rare occasions they have a problem, the regulars always support staff.

“We don’t tolerate any nonsense. If anyone is rude to our staff they don’t get served,” she said.

“And as soon as my customers see something happening they will be behind us. They’re all so brilliant if someone is causing trouble. It’s so nice.”

Local council

A local council can also get involved to prevent troublemakers repeatedly dampening a pub’s atmosphere.

Earlier this year Manchester City Council obtained a ban for a man who screamed abuse at a female worker at Bar 461 in Withington.

He was given an ASBO for foul language, intimidation and insults, so he’s not legally allowed to enter any pub he’s been barred from or the surrounding areas.

Manchester City Council urged other licensees to be aware of his appearance to ensure he doesn’t break the ban.

A spokesman said: “[The offender] is someone with a long history of committing offences when drunk, and behaving violently and aggressively in pubs and bars.

“He has no respect for licensees’ attempts to ban him from their premises, and has simply returned to continue causing problems.”

The ASBO bans the man from using insulting or threatening language or behaviour in public, and if he does he risks a prison sentence.

Legal obligations

Employers  have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, including:

  • physical violence – including kicking, spitting, hitting or pushing, as well as more extreme violence with weapons
  • verbal abuse – including shouting, swearing or insults, racial or sexual abuse
  • threats and intimidation

Neglecting the obligations could lead to a damaged reputation, staff dissatisfaction or claims for compensation.

Licensees are also required by law to carry out a risk assessment.

Government advice

Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises awareness of groups of workers at higher risk, such as lone workers or trainees.

“Young workers and trainees may be more at risk because they have had less training on how to deal with angry customers, robbery and sexual harassment. They may also have more difficulty recognising dangerous situations through lack of experience,” it states.

HSE’s document ‘Managing work-related violence in licensed and retail premises’ advises:

  • focusing on training – particularly on identifying and resolving conflict.
  • having approachable and active managers
  • ensuring you gather accurate information to give to the police if needed
  • banning persistent offenders
  • using CCTV as a deterrent and to identify and prosecute offenders
  • using well-trained security staff as a deterrent and to make customers feel safer
  • working with other pubs/clubs to ban offenders from all pubs in the area or to share security resources
  • good customer service

How do you deal with abuse? Email Oli Gross​.

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