Saturday, June 15, 2024

Tougher penalties for assaulting retail workers introduced in NSW

People who assault retail workers in NSW will face tougher penalties under a bill introduced by the state government.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Assaults on Retail Workers) Bill 2023 will introduce three new offences into the Crimes Act 1900.

The reforms make it an offence to:

  • Assault, throw a missile at, stalk, harass or intimidate a retail worker in the course of the worker’s duty, even if no actual bodily harm is caused to the worker, with a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment.
  • Assault a retail worker in the course of the worker’s duty and cause actual bodily harm to the worker, with a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment.
  • Wound or cause grievous bodily harm to a retail worker in the course of the worker’s duty, being reckless as to causing actual bodily harm to the worker or another person, with a maximum penalty of 11 years’ imprisonment.

“Everyone should be treated with decency and respect while at work. There is no excuse for assaulting anyone, particularly not someone who is doing their job,” says NSW Premier Chris Minns.

“This bill reflects our government’s commitment to support our workers and ensure their safety in the workplace.”

Welcomed by retailers

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) welcomes the new legislation, noting that “the landmark reforms, being introduced to parliament today, will see NSW and South Australia lead the way in legislating in response to the growing prevalence of customer aggression and assaults”.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra praises the NSW government’s commitment to protecting retail workers and consulting with industry via the ARA on the development of the initiative.

“We’ve seen a frightening escalation in retail crime, where it’s now becoming a matter of life-or-death for workers simply trying to do their job,” he says.

“It’s shocking that in recent months in different locations across the country, we’ve seen several retail workers stabbed – in addition to the broader issue of staff being harassed, intimidated, and physically assaulted.

“Actions speak louder than words, and we’re extremely pleased that the NSW government has listened to our views and the needs of retail workers and is taking strong action to deter these violent incidents and keep retail staff safe.

“We’re mindful that the majority of customers are respectful and do the right thing, but the small minority are making retail a dangerous environment to work in.”

Woolworths Group also welcomes the announcement, with CEO Brad Banducci commenting that “this is a significant day for our 50,000-plus hard-working retail team members across NSW.”

“While, by far, the vast majority of our customers are respectful, there’s no avoiding the fact that retail worker abuse is on the rise,” he says.

“In response, we’ve been investing in a range of new measures to better protect our team against violence, threats and abuse.

“All retail workers across the industry have the right to feel safe at work.

“Many of our team work and live in their local community and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.”

Woolworths commends the NSW government for “acting quickly and decisively to better protect retail workers”.

“We also thank the ARA and Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) for their continued support in tackling this issue,” adds Mr Banducci.

A ‘precedent’ for others

In March, the ARA joined forces with the SDA, calling on state and federal jurisdictions across the country to implement similar reforms to South Australia.

Mr Zahra hopes the NSW government’s new legislation will serve as a precedent for other jurisdictions to follow.

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

“The NSW and South Australian governments have set a strong example, one we hope other governments across the country will adopt.

“This initiative is warmly welcomed by our retail community. With this new legislation we’re sending a strong message that this behaviour won’t be tolerated.”

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