If recent times have taught us anything, it is that frontline workers are often the target of hurling abuse as customers become disgruntled and enraged with new government regulations and having their ‘freedom’ taken away. 

With the new restrictions in Victoria now requiring customers to register their details at all retail stores and supermarkets, and additional ID checks in regional Victoria, we can expect an increase in poor treatment to staff who are trying to enforce these rules as best they can, and keep everyone COVIDsafe.

Gerard Dwyer, National Secretary at the SDA says, “The union understands the need for this direction during the current Victorian lockdown to ensure the safety of the community at large and for production of ID in regional outlets.

However, it is no excuse for shoppers to take out their misplaced frustration on retail workers.”

A recent SDA survey of 2,300 retail workers revealed that nearly 90 percent (87.92%) reported being subject to verbal abuse, with one in five respondents (21.60%) reported being coughed or spat on during COVID-19.

Dominique Lamb, CEO at the National Retail Association (NRA) says, “Retailers are doing everything within their power to accommodate for the changing regulations, and that responses such as abuse and violence is only contributing to a tense environment.

Customers must treat retail workers with the respect they deserve, even if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by things.

It is an anxious time but we ask that shoppers be patient as retail staff do their best in difficult circumstances. We ask that police have a strong presence around shopping centres to enforce civility and to deal with anyone being physically or verbally abusive.”

Retail businesses, and especially workers, need to familiarise themselves with the new regulations to keep informed of their rights to refuse entry, refuse service, and particularly, how to keep themselves safe from abuse and assault. Lockdowns and restrictions are tough for both businesses and customers alike, as the rise in mental health issues are a growing concern for the Australian economy. However, they are not acceptable excuses for customer abuse, aggression or assault.

To read more on the new Victorian regulations from Friday 4 June, and the frequently asked questions business owners have around these new rules, read more here.

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