Penalties associated with violent assault of retail workers have more than doubled in an effort to reduce its frequency.

Government cracks down on violence against retail workers 

Laws have tightened in an attempt to change the alarming rate of abuse experienced by workers in retail.
May 16, 2024

TOUGH new laws targeting violent offenders who assault retail workers have passed through state Parliament.

Individuals who assault retail workers in the course of their duties will now face up to seven years in prison, or three years and a fine of $36,000. This is up from the previous penalties of 18 months’ imprisonment and a fine of $18,000.

The state government’s reforms create a new provision in the criminal code that carries more severe penalties than general assault provisions for those who assault retail workers in the course of their duties. This includes the throwing of an object at a retail worker.

The higher penalties send a strong message to the community that this behaviour towards retail workers - who are simply doing their job - is unacceptable.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw increased instances of assaults on retail workers, and there is growing evidence that violence against retail workers continues at unacceptable levels.

A 2023 national survey by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) of its members, which attracted 4600 responses, revealed 87 per cent said they had experienced abuse from customers in the past year.

The reports of physical violence increased by a staggering 56 per cent when compared with the results of a 2021 survey.

Attorney General John Quigley said the state government will not stand for cowardly acts of violence against retail workers.

“Retail staff play a critical role in our economy and in our communities. This was highlighted for the community during the pandemic.

“Under no circumstances should workers be exposed to threats of violence in the workplace. None of us would tolerate it.

“These reforms will ensure that not only does our justice system protect retail workers, but also community standards are met with appropriate penalties for these types of crimes.”

Police Minister Paul Papalia said retail employees should not have to work in fear of being assaulted.

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