To Mondayise or Fridayise public holidays: Business responds
Given the option to choose which end of the week public holidays should be celebrated, and at the risk of sacrificing the value of "Friday drinks", businesses have Monday-itis.
Although the corporate world has opposed plans to Mondayise Waitangi and Anzac Day when they fall at the weekend, the opportunity to bear the extra cost on a Friday instead – at the lazy end of the working week – is unpopular.
NBR ONLINE suggested Fridayising as a way to ease the burden to business – shifting the public holiday to a day which, in many work places, is more social and less productive.
But results of a poll conducted by NBR ONLINE reveal 41% of readers are in favour of Monday. Only 26% want to see Waitangi Day and Anzac Day celebrated on a Friday, and 33% say the holidays should occur on the days they fall.
Lobby group Business NZ agrees Monday is the better choice for a public holiday.
That is because Monday tends to be the day of the week with the least economic activity, Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly says.
Certainly, it is the quietest shopping day for retailers, and businesses which open on the weekend may choose to close on Monday in lieu.
“To Mondayise is a public tradition, internationally. And there are usually good reasons underlying these decisions,” he says.
Business NZ has stood against plans to change the Holidays Act to allow for the Mondayisation of Waitangi Day and Anzac Day, which this year fell on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
Mr O'Reilly says more holidays mean less productivity and greater administrative costs for business, and that is unhelpful in the current economic climate.
“It’s not a good signal to send businesses struggling to be competitive right now. And it sends a signal about where MPs' heads are at.”
Although National opposes the Holidays (Full Recognition of Waitangi Day and Anzac Day) Amendment Bill, due for a second reading in the months ahead, it has strong support from Labour, the Greens, United Future and the Maori Party and is likely to get the numbers to pass.
On the upside, Mr O’Reilly says the costs of Mondayising Waitangi and Anzac Days are much less invasive than hiking corporate tax rates because the holiday burden only falls on two years in every seven.
Businesses have had plenty of time to prepare for the change, he says.
Counting the cost
NZIER estimates it costs New Zealand Inc $134 million to move a single holiday from a weekend to a Monday.
And since a holiday falls on a weekend about twice every seven years, the average annual cost of Monday-ising a single holiday is $38 million (of $77 million for both Waitangi Day and Anzac Day).
While business will bear the brunt of that cost initially NZIER expects the burden to be more equally shared between firms and workers over time, as wage negotiations start to take Mondayisation into account.
Tourism businesses have lent support to the Bill in the hope three-day weekends could get more Kiwis travelling to the regions and grow the domestic tourism dollar.
But NZIER senior economist Kirdan Lees says that argument could be a red herring.
“If we could construct a case that we holiday domestically on long weekends then that would make sense, but we don’t think a three-day weekend does enough to change people’s habits away from international travel,” Mr Lees says.
NZIER’s research does not account for the harder-to-quantify social benefits of public holidays, such as more time with family and friends.
Although NZIER has not calculated whether it would be better to shift the holiday to a Friday instead, Mr Lees did not anticipate significant savings for most industries.
Agriculture, for example, maintains a similar level of intensity every day of the week.
Friday drinks important – psychologist
Dr Helena Cooper-Thomas, a senior lecturer at The University of Auckland’s school of psychology, says although Friday’s might be less productive days in some offices, Friday drinks or long lunches do have value.
“Research shows relationships at work and networking are important. Even if the interaction that can occur over a drink is not directly about workplace tasks, having a closer relationship with workmates is of value,” she says.
“Informal conversations that tend to happen more at the end of the week might indirectly help people’s performance on the job.”
Benefit of mid-week break
And if employers found the Waitangi Day holiday disruptive this year when it fell mid-week, Dr Cooper-Thomas suggests there may have been a productivity benefit.
“Research shows the effects of holidays don’t last long. So having Waitangi Day on a Wednesday this year meant the benefit and energy that follows a break from work was felt twice that week.
“Those benefits are fleeting the more you bulk them [holidays] together.”
NBR ONLINE readers favour Monday-isation
Readers of NBR ONLINE seem favour Mondayisation, with 71% of respondents to a recent NBR ONLINE opinion poll answering the question “should public holidays be 'Mondayised'?” in the affirmative.
Reader comments left on stories demonstrate the difference in thinking from some business people.
“Reality check people: NZ heeds to improve its productivity. Period. Taking more time off does not improve productivity. We have some of the most generous holiday allocations around. If this bill goes through, maybe we should just rename our country New Lazealand,” one reader says.
Another reader had different views:
“There’s a lot more to increasing productivity in a business than just grizzling about the cost” of another day off.
“In my business, I have run numerous ‘tests’ where employees were given an extra paid day off work at Christmas, or around one of the two holidays currently in question.
“In all cases, the labour productivity for the week – output and total number of hours worked – was at least as high as in weeks where employees were not given an extra day off.”
Bill due back before Parliament
Labour MP David Clark’s Member’s Bill – the Holidays (Full Recognition of Waitangi Day and Anzac Day) Amendment Bill – is expected to receive its second reading in parliament in the next few months.
It proposes changes to the Holidays Act 2003 to allow for the Mondayisation of Waitangi and Anzac Day.
That means, if Waitangi Day or Anzac Day fall on a Saturday or Sunday, which is not a working day for most employees, then the public holiday will be treated as falling on the following Monday.
And if they fall on a Saturday or Sunday and it is a normal working day for an employee, the public holiday will be treated as falling on that weekend day.
In some seven-day-a-week work places, this will result in a split among employees, with some treating the Saturday or Sunday as their holiday and others the Monday.
Read more about what Mondayisation of Waitangi and Anzac Day means for employers here.