To Mondayise or Fridayise public holidays: Business responds

Phil O'Rielly: Mondayising Waitangi and Anzac Days less invasive

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.

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QUOTE 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. UNQUOTE. But Christmas (for example) is always celebrated on 25th December - and if it falls on a weekend, people get a day off in lieu. Same method would work for both ANZAC and Waitangi days, celebrate on the correct day, but have a day off in lieu if they fall on a weekend. On a Monday, of course.

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Why this is necessary is beyond my comprehension; we are discussing a reduction over a 7 year period of 2 days in 227 or less than 1%of total annual and statutory holidays.
NZ is already at the top end of annual leave allowances and well down in productivity comparisons; I would be much happier if productivity gains occurred and these were recognised by the employer.

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Personally I think ANZAC day and Waitangi Day are what they are and they should be celebrated/held on their day, and when that day is a week day, then it should, as it is, be considered a public holiday. But my position is not about productivity even though it is true that the less you work the less you produce. My position is the days are significant for a reason and no -one should be forced to work on them, and if they have to then they are compensated.
If people want, and can afford to have more holidays, fine, create one, maybe even two extra statutory holidays during parts of the year when long week-ends are a bit thin, but leave ANZAC and Waitangi day as they are, I say.

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Leave things as they are please. In the last 10 years that I have been in business, we have had forced on us time-and-a-half payments for working on a public holiday (2004), an increase in annual leave to 4 weeks (2007), Kiwisaver employer contributions (2008) and a 50% increase in those contributions from 2% to 3% (April 1st 2013), just more and more compliance costs. And on top of all this there is constant left-wing commentary demanding the minimum wage to be increased. All of the above cost money, business owners have to keep increasing prices to cover the additional compliance costs, so everyone ends up paying more for goods and services. A catch 22.
Mondayising holidays for a seven day business like a restaurant will result in them charging surcharges for the day the public holiday falls, as well as the Monday that will also be observed as a public holiday. Unless the government wants to give business owners a tax credit for the Mondayising???

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New Zealand's lower productivity is attributed not to working less hours (NZers work comparatively long hours), but to the output from those hours, which seems to be mainly a function of the amount of capital invested in NZ businesses.

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