Opening for business or working this Easter? Know your rights and responsibilities

Published: 27 March 2024

The Labour Inspectorate is reminding employers and employees of their rights and responsibilities leading up to the Easter period.

Labour Inspectorate Head of Compliance and Enforcement Simon Humphries says it’s important for business owners and their staff to understand the regulations around limited trading days, including Easter weekend.

“On three and a half days each year almost all shops must close under the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990. These are Christmas Day, Good Friday, until 1pm on ANZAC Day, and Easter Sunday,” says Simon.

“What can trip people up is not understanding that on Easter Sunday most shops need to close, despite it not being a public holiday.

All shop employees have the right to refuse work on Easter Sunday without giving a reason to their employer. This applies to all shop employees, including those working in shops that are exempt from shopping restrictions, such as dairies and petrol stations.

It also includes staff doing ‘non-trading’ work such as shelf-stacking or stocktaking in or from a shop.

“We want both employers and employees to understand that they have responsibilities and a process to follow when either an employer wants a shop employee to work on Easter Sunday, and where shop employees don’t want to work that day.

Simon also notes that he realises there has been confusion over the years on exactly which types of shops can open on restricted trading days.

“We have 3 circumstances where shops can open on restricted trading days in New Zealand. Shops are allowed to open if you’re classed as an essential shop or business permitted to trade, then some shops may have an area exemption, and finally councils might put local policies in place within their area.

“Those businesses permitted to trade include places such as a dairy, petrol station, pharmacy, restaurant or cafe, hairdressers, and barbers. Farmers and crafts markets are also included in this category. These places have certain conditions they need to meet, but they can be open.

Some shops can also open on restricted trading days because they have an area exemption. These are generally given in tourist areas such as Taupō or Queenstown.

Councils can put in place local policies that allow shops within their area, or parts of it, to trade on Easter Sunday. Councils create local policies, and then notify MBIE.

“Generally, what we are see is that people know the rules and are doing things right, what we’re keen to see is this extended across the board,” says Simon.

More detail on shops that can open with conditions, areas with exemptions, and Easter Sunday local council policies can be found on the Employment NZ website.

Restricted shop trading days(external link) — Employment NZ

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