Plans to Monday-ise public holidays – ensuring every Anzac day creates a day off every year - have not caused too much fuss among businesses.
That’s despite the threat to productivity and extra administrative cost it will bring to many businesses.
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 first reading in Parliament in the next few weeks.
It proposes changes to the Holidays Act 2003 to allow for the "Monday-isation" 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 employees treating the Saturday or Sunday as their holiday, and others treating the Monday as their holiday.
What will the Bill mean for employers when Waitangi and Anzac Day fall on a Saturday or Sunday?
If an employee normally works on the Saturday or Sunday, they can either take Waitangi or Anzac Day off as a paid public holiday or they will work that day as usual and be entitled to payment at time-and-a-half for the hours worked, plus an alternative day’s holiday to be taken at another time to be agreed with the employer.
If an employee does not normally work on the Saturday or Sunday, they will either take the following Monday off, or work that day and become entitled to payment at time-and-a-half for the hours worked, plus an alternative day’s holiday to be taken at a time to be agreed with the employer.
The employment law team at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts say reaction to the Bill has been mixed.
Partner Jennifer Mills says most employers appear to be in favour of the Bill, believing it will simplify public holiday administration and provide additional family and relaxation time for employees.
“But some concerns have been raised regarding potential costs for employers and the risk of making two of our most important national days less significant,” Ms Mills says.
“”The proposed legislation does not change the fact that part-time employees who do not work on a Monday or a Friday are entitled to fewer public holidays than other part-time employees working the same number of fays, but on different days of the week."
The amendment also creates additional issues for employers using a public holiday surcharge.
Given that they are likely to be paying some employees at time-and-a-half on the actual weekend holiday and other employees at time-and-a-half on the Monday, should the employer charge a surcharge on one day, both days or neither?
Ms Mills says the problems regarding administration of public holidays for shift workers, whose shifts fall partly on a public holiday would also remain, with the "holiday transfer" provisions in the Employment Relations Act 2000 proving difficult to administer and understand for many employers and employees.
More holidays, obviously, mean less productivity for many businesses.
Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly says that’s one reason why successive governments have chosen not to Monday-ise these commemorative days.
“More holidays does mean less productivity, although the effects will be felt differently in different sectors - for instance a day off for an office worker will have less impact say than a day off for a production workers who is not replaced,” he says.
“Given the potential for there to be a close vote on this issue, the Bill’s success or otherwise will probably depend on public debate as it passes through the House.”
Businesses still have time up their sleeve
If the Bill is enacted, employers still have time to organise their businesses to administer the change.
The next Anzac Day falls on a weekend in 2015 and Waitangi Day in 2016.
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