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.
We currently allow shopping on other statutory holidays like Labour Day, Easter Monday, Provincial Anniversary Days, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Waitangi Day and half of ANZAC day. And Queen’s Birthday. And the day after New Year’s Day. Lots of shops choose not to open; totally fair call and up to them. The ones where it’s worth the penalty rates will open; the ones where it isn’t worth it won’t.
What potential objection is left?
- Religious stuff about forcing everybody to pay special observance to one group’s special day – I think we can dismiss that out of hand. Either that, or I start wanting everybody to have to start airing grievances on Festivus.
- Coordination benefits of having everybody having a day off at the same time and knowing they can do family stuff.
- There are (counting) 11 current stat holidays. I’m proposing adding one, Easter Sunday, to make it 12. Like, maybe there’ll be some people with really large families where they can’t find one of these where everybody takes the stat rather than taking the time-and-a-half pay and day in lieu, and maybe it’ll also be the case that a tiny fraction of them can’t figure out how to all take one day out of the four remaining weeks of annual leave at the same time, but do we set the whole country’s shopping around those (guessing, looking up and down the country) 10 people?
- And there are coordination costs where everybody holidays at the same time anyway.
- Wage costs for piles of the hospitality industry, like hotels and such, that are open on Easter Sunday.