While it’s great that the government will let policy around Easter trading be relaxed on a regionalised basis, the proposed changes really don’t do enough.
Minister Woodhouse proposes allowing communities to abolish the trading bans in their area if they choose. But Easter Sunday still is not a statutory holiday. That means that it will be difficult for local bodies to abolish the trading ban without really annoying the religious adherents in their districts.
I’d earlier proposed a compromise deal in which Easter Sunday be made a statutory holiday while abolishing the trading bans around Easter. That lets shops open if they wish while paying a penalty rate to those workers happy to take on the shift.
Currently, Good Friday and Easter Monday are statutory holidays. That means that workers rostered for those days have to be paid penalty rates and get to pick another day off instead. Easter Sunday is not a statutory holiday. I presume that when Easter Monday was set up, nobody much contemplated working on Easter Sunday.
Currently, it is illegal to open some shops on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The main defence for this is the protection of retail workers who could otherwise be “forced” to work Easter Sunday. Well, retail workers other than those in the exempt sectors.
And so I have a very simple proposal.
Make Easter Sunday a statutory holiday while lifting the shopping bans on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Christmas.
Statutory holidays only attract payment to workers if the workers would otherwise normally be working on Sundays, so it is costless to the majority of firms that close on Sundays anyway. It would impose some wage costs on those companies currently allowed to be open on Sundays, but provide good opportunities for those firms currently banned from being open on Sundays. Workers choosing to work Easter Sunday or Good Friday (or Easter Monday for that matter, when shops already can be open) would get a day in lieu and extra pay.
I expect that, had anybody expected Sunday to be a work day when stat holidays were set up, they’d have set Easter Sunday as a stat in the first place. Making the Sunday a stat provides greater protection for the bible people who want the stronger protection for the day off, and for the pagans who want some kind of southern hemisphere harvest-of-chocolate-eggs festival. And recall that stats don’t attract pay-for-a-day-off unless you’d otherwise normally have been working that day, so effect on firms is pretty small.
Unless local councils get to designate Easter as a local stat, on par with local provincial holidays, getting rid of the Easter trading bans won’t be easy.