Victoria wants new law to protect frontline employees

State aiming to introduce new safety legislation for customer-facing workers

Victoria wants new law to protect frontline employees

The Victoria government is targeting to introduce a new law to protect customer-facing employees in retail, fast food, and public transportation from abuse.

In an announcement, the government said it is convening a Worker Protection Consultation Group to oversee the development of the proposal. The group will look into potential new penalties or offences, as well as how existing offences could be expanded to protect employees, according to the government.

It will also consider protections against stalking, harassment, or intimidation against employees.

"These new laws will send a powerful message: if you think you can get away with assaulting or abusing these workers – you're wrong and you will face the consequences," said Premier Jacinta Allan in a statement.

"These workers deserve nothing but our respect. And we're going to help make sure they get it."

In developing the new law, Victoria is set to join the list of Australian states, such as Western Australia, that have introduced stronger penalties for individuals assaulting retail workers.

Retailers welcome legislation

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) welcomed the state's latest move in a statement.

"We're extremely pleased that Premier Jacinta Allan has responded to our views and the Shop, Distributive Allied Employees Association (SDA), and, more importantly, the needs of retail workers by taking strong action to deter these violent incidents and keep our retail staff safe," ARA CEO Paul Zahra said.

The ARA, the SDA, and the National Retailers Association will be part of the consultation process for the legislation's development ahead of its introduction next year, according to the association.

"This initiative is warmly welcomed by our retail community. With this new legislation we are sending a strong message that this behaviour won't be tolerated," Zahra said.

In Australia, research from the SDA revealed that 87% of employees had experienced abuse from customers in the past year. To curb cases of abuse, even private sector employers, such as Woolworths, have invested in CCTV upgrades and on other tech to protect staff.

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