A law has recently been passed allowing local councils to decide whether shops in their district can open on Easter Sunday or not. As part of the changes, the new law has prescribed specific processes which must be followed (by both parties) if an employer wants its shop employees to work on Easter Sunday.
Employers are now required to provide all shop employees who the employer would like to work on Easter Sunday, with written notice advising the employees that:
1. The employer would like the employee to work on Easter Sunday; and
2. The employee has the right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday, and if the employee does so there will be no adverse treatment by the employer.
Such notice, (“employer’s notice”), must be given annually to each relevant shop employee. A general “Easter Sunday” clause in an employment agreement will not be considered compliant. The employer’s notice must be given to all such employees no more than eight weeks, and no less than four weeks before Easter Sunday. The notice can be delivered in person or electronically, including in a group email.
Should a shop employee who has been asked to work on Easter Sunday decide that he/she does not want to, the employee must provide the employer with written notice within 14 days of the employee receiving the employer’s notice. The employee does not have to provide the employer with a reason for refusing to work on Easter Sunday, the employee can simply advise that they are choosing not to work. If the employer does not receive such notice from an employee in response to an employer notice, the employer can require an employee to work on Easter Sunday.
The above notice requirements will apply to all shop employees who the employer would like to work on Easter Sunday, regardless of whether the employer’s shops are to be open on Easter Sunday or not. Therefore, if an employer’s shop is not within a local council exempt area (or covered by any other exemption), but the employer would still like its regular Sunday employees to work on Easter Sunday to perform a stocktake, the employer will still have to provide an employer notice, and the employee will still have the right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday.
An employer that does not follow the notice requirements but requires any employees to work on Easter Sunday will be considered compelling such employees to work. An employer that adversely treats employees who refuse to work on Easter Sunday will be considered disadvantaging such employees. In both cases, the employees in question could raise a personal grievance with their employer.
Despite the changes, Easter Sunday is still not considered a public holiday. Therefore, employees who agree to work on Easter Sunday will only be entitled to their usual daily pay. Employees who refuse to work on Easter Sunday will not be entitled to any pay (just as employees who are not required to work on Easter Sunday are not entitled to any pay).
Given that Easter Sunday falls on 1 April this year, the time period for employers to provide relevant employees with the employer’s notice is between 4 February and 4 March 2018.
If you employ shop employees, who you would like to work on Easter Sunday this year (whether in a shop that is open or not), and you would like some assistance with preparing a compliant employer’s notice, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
If you are unsure whether any of your shops are within a local council exempt area, information found under the following link should help: https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/public-holidays/restricted-shop-trading-days/local-council-easter-sunday-shop-trading-policies/
By Anneke Reid