Shops can now open on Easter Sunday
The Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 (Act) allows certain shops to be open for business, subject to local council requirements. Employers may require shop employees to work on Easter Sunday (this year, 1 April 2018).
The Act defines a “shop” as a building, place, or part of a building or place, where goods are kept, sold, or offered for sale, by retail. A “shop employee” means an employee within the meaning of the Employment Relations Act 2000 who is working in a shop.
It is important to note that the requirements under the Act even extend to situations where the employer does not intend to open its shop on Easter Sunday but requires employees to undertake non-trading work (e.g. stocktakes, stock refills, or cleaning/ maintenance work).
If you want employees to work on Easter Sunday
If you would like your employees to work in a shop this Easter Sunday, you have a one month long period to provide notice, in writing, to this effect. The Act imposes procedural requirements on employers wishing to request shop employees to work on an Easter Sunday. To meet the obligations under the Act, employers must:
Provide at least four weeks and no more than eight weeks notice to an employee if they are expected to work Easter Sunday (to ensure you comply with the notice requirements for Easter Sunday 2018, notice must be given between 4 February and 4 March 2018);
Notice must be provided annually, in writing and must advise employees of their right to refuse to work on an Easter Sunday.
Employees can say no
Employees have the right to refuse a request to work without providing a reason. An employee wanting to decline work, must notify the employer in writing and within 14 days of notification.
It is important to note that the Act explicitly states that a general clause in an employment agreement requiring the employee to work on an Easter Sunday will not comply with the provisions of the Act – the notice needs to be separate and specific. Further, an employer must not compel the employee to work on an Easter Sunday or treat the employee adversely for refusing to work.
Under the Act, an employer will be considered to have compelled an employee if:
The employer makes working on an Easter Sunday a condition of continued employment; or
Exerts undue influence on the shop employee with a view to inducing the shop employee to work on an Easter Sunday; or
Requires a shop employee to work on Easter Sunday without providing notice of the right to refuse to work.
If an employer fails to comply with the procedural requirements under the Act or compels a shop employee to work on an Easter Sunday, an employee may bring a personal grievance against the employer.
Remember that while Easter Sunday has a special status under the Shop Trading Hours Act, it is not a public holiday under the Holidays Act 2003. So if an employee does work they will be paid their usual rates, unless you reach an agreement for something different. Any employee who does not work will not be entitled to payment for the day, even if the employee would usually work on a Sunday.