Easter trading used to be decided for the whole of the country at central government level, and most businesses (with some exceptions) were restricted from opening on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Doing so put the owner at risk of facing a $1,000 fine.

However due to the growing demand from both the public and retailers to open for business on Easter Sunday, changes to the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 have passed the decision on the issue over to local authorities.

If you are a shop owner this means that from Easter 2017 your district council can now vote on whether Easter Sunday trading is permitted in your region.

Last week the Far North District Council voted to open up Easter Sunday trading across their district, allowing businesses to operate without fear of prosecution. The new trading rule was passed unanimously despite reservations from some councillors. Previously only Paihia businesses were allowed to open due to its bustling tourism industry, whereas shops in equally-popular Russell were not.

Kaipara District Council closed public submissions on their 'Statement of Proposal for Easter Sunday Shop Trading Policy' on Friday 3 February 2017. They advised hearings would be held in mid-February.

Whangarei District Council stated in a council meeting agenda held 16 December 2015 "That Whangarei District Council supports the submission of Local Government New Zealand to the Shop Trading Amendment Bill expressing its support for Territorial Authorities to be able to regulate trading on Easter Sundays through a bylaw." They have made no public announcements regarding their vote on the matter.

What this means for employers:

If your district is to allow Easter Sunday trading and you plan to open, you must advise staff of their right to refuse to work (eg by way of a letter or memo delivered in person or via a group e-mail). This must be done between the eight to four weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, or as soon as possible for new staff commencing less than four weeks before Easter Sunday.

For Easter 2017 this means employees should be notified between 19 February and 19 March 2017.

A link to Employment New Zealand's Easter Sunday trading letter template to employees can be found here.

If an employee chooses not to work, they must notify you in writing (via letter or e-mail) within 14 days of receiving the right to refuse. In the event the employee opts out of working that day, you must accept this decision without any prejudice to the employee.

What this means for employees

If you are advised (in writing) by your employer that you have the right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday, you may refuse without giving your reason(s) and without repercussions, however you must advise them of your refusal in writing and within 14 days of receiving the right to refuse.

You may file a personal grievance if you believe you have been made to work Easter Sunday, or have been treated badly as a result of refusing to work Easter Sunday.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please give us a call or send us an email – we'll be happy to help.

Sources:

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

NZ Herald

Kaipara District Council

Whangarei District Council

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