Harassing retail workers could soon become a crime in NSW

Retail workers will be protected by new laws adding prison sentences for those who harass or assault them. Here are all the details
Retail staff protections in nsw

Harassing or assaulting retail workers could soon become a crime in NSW under draft laws unveiled by the state government yesterday.

The new legislation adds a three-tiered offence structure for abuse or assaults committed against retail workers.

The maximum penalties

Four years: Assaulting, stalking, harassing or intimidating a worker, even if no harm is caused.

Six years: Assaulting a worker and causing physical harm.

11 years: Causing a significant injury to a worker or other person.

Retail worker treatment

The NSW Government says instances of mistreatment against retail workers spiked during the pandemic. It prompted some supermarkets and other stores to release public statements urging customers to treat staff with respect.

There are currently no laws in NSW that specifically protect retail workers from abuse or assault. The legislation will add three new offences specifically protecting retail workers.

Industry response

Bernie Smith, the Secretary-Treasurer of the leading retail workers union in NSW, told TDA he “warmly welcomes” the legislation.

The Australian Retailers Association also supported the draft laws, saying it would help police the small number of people “making retail a dangerous environment to work in”.

Opposition response

The NSW Liberal-National Opposition says the assault of any person is never acceptable and is currently reviewing the legislation.

“The Opposition supports any legislation that can be demonstrated to deter assaults on innocent members of the public,” Shadow Attorney-General Alister Henskens told TDA.

The NSW Government doesn’t have a majority of seats in either house of Parliament, and will need support from other members to pass the laws.

Is there a precedent?

The draft laws in NSW follow similar legislation that passed in South Australia last year.

The SA laws add a maximum five-year imprisonment penalty for a basic assault against a retail worker, and seven years for those who cause serious harm to a worker.

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