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Victoria to Bring in Harsher Penalties for Retail Staff Abusers

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By Published On: May 23, 20240 Comments

Victoria is set to bring in new laws protecting retail workers from increasing intimidation, verbal, and physical abuse from members of the public.

Premier of Victoria, Jacinta Allana has this week announced the Labor Government will be bringing in stronger laws that protect customer-facing workers in retail, fast food and public transport roles from assault and abuse.

The Government will convene a Worker Protection Consultation Group to oversee the development of the legislative approach. The National Retailers Association (NRA) and Australian Retailers Association (ARA) have confirmed they will be a part of the consultation process, with the aim to introduce a Bill to Parliament by the end of 2025.

This group will both consider how to strengthen the existing policies and work to develop potential new penalties. It will also consider protections against stalking, harassment, or intimidation towards workers in Victoria. 

Premier Jacinta Allan commented, “these new laws will send a powerful message: if you think you can get away with assaulting or abusing these workers – you’re wrong and you will face the consequences.”

“These workers deserve nothing but our respect. And we’re going to help make sure they get it.”

Customer-facing workers are facing increasing levels of verbal and physical abuse.

A national survey conducted last year of 4,600 members from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee’ Association (SDA) found that 87 percent of workers had experienced abuse from customers in the past year.

When compared to a 2021 survey of members, the reports of physical violence against workers increased by a staggering 56 percent.”

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the ARA has long advocated for these reforms to protect retail workers. 

 

“All retail workers, whether they’re a casual in their first job in a department store or doing the night shift at the local convenience store, have a right to feel safe at work,” Mr Zahra said.

“No one deserves to be intimidated or harassed or threatened with weapons, for simply doing their job. People who engage in these types of behaviours are committing a crime – it’s as simple as that.

 Last year, the ARA joined forces with the SDA, calling on state and federal jurisdictions across the country to implement similar reforms to South Australia who introduced a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for people convicted of basic assault against a retail worker on the job and seven years when the assault causes harm.

“This is a powerful example of the progress that can be made when all stakeholders work together with government for positive change,” Mr Zahra said.  

 “Victoria has today joined a growing force for respect and protection of frontline retail workers – one we hope the remaining jurisdictions – Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT – will adopt.”

About the Author: Rosalea Catterson

Rosalea is the Editor of Power Retail. With a keen interest in consumer behaviour and tech, she covers everything ecommerce and hosts the Power Retail Power Talks Podcast.

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