NSW Govt Urges Respect for Retail Workers pre-Easter Rush


The NSW Government is reminding consumers to behave respectfully towards retail workers as shoppers and retailers prepare for the rush ahead of stores closing on Good Friday (March 29).

A 2023 survey of more than 4600 retail workers reported 87% of workers experienced verbal abuse from a customer, 12.5% reporting physical violence, and 52% reporting they had the same customer act abusive or violent on more than one occasion.

Workplace violence can be via a threat or action which causes either physical or psychological harm or injury.

In the retail industry workplace, this includes intimidating behavior which creates a fear of violence such as verbal threats, throwing objects or shoving, spitting or other physical contact.

Retailers should have systems and policies in place to help staff respond when faced with violence and aggression from customers.

SafeWork NSW is continuing to respond to an incident on February 18 where a 64-year-old worker was allegedly assaulted at a supermarket in Western Sydney. While NSW Police are investigating matters related to alleged criminal conduct, SafeWork NSW are reviewing the incident to see if there are breaches of WHS laws.

Tougher penalties for assaulting retail workers were introduced by the NSW Government last year with some offences receiving a maximum penalty of 11 years.

For further advice and resources relating to safety in the retail trade please visit the SafeWork website.

Minister for Work Health and Safety, Sophie Cotsis, said:

"Easter is a great time of the year - it's a major religious event, a public holiday and a major shopping opportunity for people of this state who are preparing for community celebrations, hosting guests at home or just trying to get away for a break.

"Let's all remember - the people who are serving you this Easter are from our local community and they are the relatives of the people who live and work around you.

"If 1 person gets agitated while shopping it is hard enough on staff members, but when you are dealing with hundreds of customers a day the agitation absorbed by front line workers accumulates.

"Whatever pressure you may feel when going shopping please respect every retail worker who serves you.

"Retail workers have the right to feel safe when they go to work and there are now strong laws in place to protect them."

Head of SafeWork NSW, Trent Curtin, said:

"Workers' compensation data over the last 3 years shows us most claims in the retail sector are made by sales assistants at fuel retailers, supermarkets and retail department stores - and around 60% are made by female workers.

"We are asking customers to maintain appropriate behavior when interacting with retail workers, and to have a little patience and understanding this Easter. We are asking employers and managers to notify SafeWork NSW of any incidence of violence in the workplace."

Secretary of SDA NSW, Bernie Smith, said:

"Customer abuse is rife in Australian shopping centres, with 87% of workers being subjected to abuse including physical violence, with 1 in 10 reporting being spat on. This must change. Everyone has a right to feel safe at work.

"We ask customers to stop, reflect and do the right thing in shops this Easter so everyone including retail workers can feel safe and celebrate this special time."

CEO Australian Retailers Association, Paul Zahra, said:

"This Easter, in NSW, criminals will face jail time if they assault or harass our frontline workers."

"No one deserves to be spat on, threatened with weapons, intimidated or harassed for simply doing their job. So let's shop up big this Easter but let's shop respectfully."

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