Workers in one industry have reported disturbing acts of violence with more than half saying they had been abused while on the job during the pandemic.
More than half of retail workers have reported experiencing abuse and increased hostility from customers during the pandemic.
A fresh report by the academics at The Australian National University (ANU) and University of Sydney looked into the impact of the Covid crisis on essential workers and found 56 per cent of retail employees experienced a notable increase in customer abuse.
Those particularly impacted by this were women, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, frontline workers and those younger than 50.
More than 1000 workers in the retail, fast-food and distribution industries were surveyed in September, during the height of lockdowns in many parts of the country.
Academics found 49 per cent of retail workers felt their job security had also decreased.
Those who were likely to feel more insecure during the pandemic were women at 51 per cent, those younger than 30 at 56 per cent, as well as workers from a non-English-speaking background at 60 per cent.
Frontline (51 per cent) and casual workers (55 per cent) and those working in a locked down region (53 per cent) were also feeling increasingly insecure.
“The experiences and concerns of these workers have tended to be overlooked or underestimated by the media and governments, relative to other frontline workers,” Lead author Professor Ariadne Vromen said.
“The way we as a community engage with frontline workers should always be courteous and respectful. At the same time there are now long-term policy challenges on how to ensure quality, secure and safe employment across the Australian workforce.”
She argued the retail sector could learn some valuable lessons while the pandemic raised a series of problematic questions like why there has been continued job insecurity and unpredictable hours in such a significant sector, and why workers were not redeployed into new online sales and warehouse roles.
“Women, linguistically diverse people and young people working in retail were also much more likely to report increased customer abuse during the pandemic, while also being much more likely to say they felt stressed enforcing customer COVID-19 safety compliance,” she said.
Meanwhile a similar message was conveyed in Victoria on Wednesday.
Thousands of Victorian retail workers reported physically and verbally assaulted by shoppers over the state’s vaccine mandate.
The spike in mistreatment has included one staffer being beaten up, another getting scolded by a cup of coffee and a shopping trolley being thrown at a third.
It comes just days after the state made it mandatory for every eligible Victorian to be fully vaccinated before entering a non-essential retail premises.
The Australian Retailers Association is now pleading with the state government to shift to New South Wales-style rules which would see the mandate scrapped once 95 per cent of people are vaccinated.