More than half of retail workers felt increased customer abuse throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with women most likely to cop it.
That is according to a joint Australian National University and University of Sydney study of how COVID affected customer relations and job security in the retail sector.
From surveying more than 1100 people in retail, fast food and distribution, it was found 56 per cent of workers noted an increase in abuse, but that figure rose to 61 per cent among women compared with 48 per cent of men.
Younger workers were also more likely to be in the firing line, with 67 per cent of people aged under 30 experiencing increased abuse, compared with 60 per cent of those aged 30 to 50 and 50 per cent of those over 50.
The study also found people from a non-English speaking background were likely to feel a lack of job security, with 60 per cent reporting they felt more insecure regarding their employment.
Women were also more likely to feel that insecurity at 51 per cent.
Lead author Ariadne Vromen, from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, said those in retail had kept society functioning through the pandemic, but had negative experiences to show for it.
She said the experiences of retail workers had tended to be overlooked relative to other frontline workers.
"The way we as a community engage with frontline workers should always be courteous and respectful," Professor Vromen said.
"At the same time there are now long-term policy challenges on how to ensure quality, secure and safe employment across the Australian workforce.
"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."