Crackdown on violence against retail workers

Assaulting a retail worker in Western Australia could attract a jail term of up to seven years under proposed legislation, bringing the state in line with tough penalties in NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Under the proposed laws the maximum penalty for assaulting retail workers will be seven years imprisonment or three years and a fine of $36,000 if dealt with summarily.

Under the change the maximum penalty increases from 18 months imprisonment and a fine of $18,000.

Labor is seeking to curb increased rates of violence against retail workers which records show have doubled over the past two years.

"My government won’t tolerate these disgraceful acts against retail workers," WA Premier Roger Cook said on Tuesday.

"These laws send a strong message to violent thugs, you will be held accountable for your actions."

The proposed laws will amend the state's criminal code so assault of retail workers carries more severe penalties than other assault charges.

This is increased over the penalty for general assault, which will remain 18 months in prison and a $18,000 fine.

A nationwide survey by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association last year revealed that 87 per cent of retail staff had experienced abuse from customers in 2023, a 56 per cent increase from the association's 2021 survey.

The WA government said rates of violence against retail workers increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and there was growing evidence violence against retail workers continues at unacceptable levels. 

The proposed laws have been welcomed by Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra.

“All retail workers, whether they’re a casual in their first job 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 spat on, threatened with weapons, intimidated or harassed for simply doing their job. People who engage in these types of behaviours are committing a crime – it’s a simple as that. "

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