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Planning to work over the upcoming Easter or ANZAC holidays?

There are some employment questions that regularly arise over the Easter and ANZAC holidays. See the answers.

Over the Easter and ANZAC holidays, some employment questions that regularly arise are:

  • Do employees have to work if their employer asks them to?
  • At what rates should employees be paid?
  • Are shops allowed to open on Easter Sunday?

The relevant public holidays this year fall on these dates: Good Friday (19 April), Easter Monday (22 April) and ANZAC Day (25 April).

Meanwhile, Good Friday, Easter Sunday (21 April) and ANZAC Day to 1pm are restricted shop trading days. Easter Sunday is not a public holiday.

Working on a public holiday (Good Friday, Easter Monday and Anzac Day)

Employees can only be made to work on a public holiday if two conditions are met:

  • it falls on a day that they would have normally worked (otherwise working day) , and
  • their employment agreement says they have to work on the public holiday.

In all other circumstances, an employee only works on a public holiday only if they agree to do so.

All employees who work on a public holiday must be paid at the rate of at least time and a half for the hours worked. Also if the public holiday was an otherwise working day for the employee, then they must also be given an alternative holiday (‘a day in lieu’).

If an employee is required to be available to work on a public holiday that doesn’t fall within their agreed and guaranteed hours, this must be covered by an availability clause in their employment agreement. The employer must also have genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds for including an availability provision and for requiring the employee to be available on the public holiday.

An employer can’t take an employee off a staff roster on a public holiday when it’s a day that they would otherwise have worked on, in order to avoid giving the employee public holiday entitlements. Not recognising an employee’s holiday entitlements is against the law.

Working on Easter Sunday (not a public holiday)

All shop employees have the right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday and they don’t have to give their employer a reason for refusing. This acknowledges that Easter Sunday is a day of significance across New Zealand and that some people will choose not to work on this day.

Employers who want a shop employee to work on Easter Sunday and shop employees who don’t want to work on Easter Sunday both have specific responsibilities to each other and need to follow the required process.

Employers’ obligations include to:

  • notify shop employees at least four weeks before the relevant Easter Sunday, but not more than eight weeks before the relevant Easter Sunday.
  • give the notice in writing, and deliver it in person to the employee (this could be in the form of a letter or email, or via a group email or in a manner specified in the shop employee’s employment agreement).

Employees’ obligations include to:

  • notify their employer no later than 14 days from the date of the employer’s notice, if they will be exercising their right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday.
  • give the notice in writing, and deliver it in person to the employer (this could be in the form of a letter or email, or in a manner specified in the shop employee’s employment agreement).

If an employee thinks they have been compelled to work on Easter Sunday by their employer, or treated adversely (badly) because they have chosen not to work, they have the ability to take a personal grievance against the employer. This may include seeking mediation to resolve the employment relationship problem.

If an employee works on Easter Sunday, they would generally be paid their ordinary rate of pay for a Sunday unless they have agreed to a different rate with their employer.

Opening shops on Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday is a restricted shop trading day when almost all shops are required to be closed. Opening on a restricted trading day is an offence. Exceptions are shops which can open with conditions (including dairies, service stations, take away bars, restaurants and cafes), have area exemptions, or Easter Sunday local policies.

Forty three councils have put local policies in place enabling Easter Sunday shop trading since the law change came into effect in 2016. Contact your local council (external link) to see if it has a policy allowing your shop to open on Easter Sunday. The local policies of individual councils will also be on the Employment New Zealand website as the policies are put in place.

Local council Easter Sunday shop trading policies

For more information

Restricted shop trading tool

Restricted shop trading days

Local council Easter Sunday shop trading policies

Pay for public holidays, sick and bereavement leave and alternative holidays