83% of retail workers in Ireland have experienced incidents of harassment at work, with 68% experiencing incidents at least once a month, according to research carried out by fuel and convenience store chain Circle K.

The company spoke to 380 of its own staff and 500 people employed across a broad range of settings in retail.

The study found that 69% of Circle K employees reported seeing fellow colleagues experience inappropriate behaviour such as physical assault and verbal abuse when dealing with customers.

Half of Irish retail workers witnessed customers physically assault a colleague.

Almost a third of retail workers, and almost a fifth of Circle K employees, said the harassment they experienced from customers was based on gender, with 34% of Circle K employees saying they had experienced incidents of harassment based on race.

A total of 70% of retail workers said their experience of harassment from customers had made them consider seeking employment outside of retail.

In response to the survey findings, Circle K said it has launched a new initiative encouraging the public to consider the impact that their behaviour has on retail workers and to always treat them with kindness.

Circle K Ireland Managing Director Gordon Lawlor said that while the vast majority of its customers behave appropriately, they are increasingly seeing incidents of unacceptable behaviour towards staff.

"Our research clearly demonstrates that this issue is not just confined to Circle K and is a challenge for the wider retail sector at large," Mr Lawlor said.

"Being kind and respectful towards workers in retail settings should be the norm and, in our society, we really should not have to remind people of the need to behave in the right way," he added.

Director of Retail Ireland Arnold Dillon described the level of harassment toward retail staff as an enormous concern.

"The consequences for staff are very real, including mental health issues, burnout and increased absence," Mr Dillon said.

"At a time when there are labour shortages in many parts of the sector, it's important that everything is done to make the sector an attractive place to work," he added.