Retailers urged to be careful

David Browne
David Browne
Employers and workers will both need to be careful dealing with the implications of retailers being allowed to open on Easter Sunday.

An amendment to the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990, along with the qualified support of the Dunedin City Council, means Dunedin retailers can open for business on Easter Sunday, this year falling on April 1.

The changes also included opening for the purpose of conducting a stock take on the day, Otago-Southland Employers Association solicitor David Browne said.

The DCC’s support was prompted by the timing of the three Ed Sheeran concerts in Dunedin, which would bring an estimated 65,000 people to the city during Easter weekend.

Similar policies were approved for other reasons in Wanaka and Queenstown. Clutha District Council had also implemented a policy permitting shops to open, including in Balclutha.

"Thanks to the policy of the Southland  District Council, all of Southland is also covered and shops can open, with the notable exceptions being Invercargill and Gore."

Mr Browne said employers who did not adhere strictly to the letter of the new law might find themselves in difficulty.

Employees also needed to understand that once a request was made  by the employer to work on Easter, the burden  shifted on to them to decline work. Failure by the employee to notify the employer of their refusal would mean they would be expected to work on the day, he said.

"Employers who believe their retail business could benefit from opening should embrace this new opportunity and treat it like the 90-day trial period. Get the details right and no worries. Get them wrong and watch out."

The first step in sorting the new procedure was to understand the concept of the particular consultation required and the timeframes involved, Mr Browne said.

Consultation meant writing to each employee to tell them the business would be open on Easter Sunday and requesting they work that day.

Timeframes meant doing this no earlier than eight weeks and no later than four weeks before the relevant Sunday. This year, that would mean writing to staff between February 3 and March 3, he said.

Employers needed to tell the employee they required to work on April 1, Easter Sunday.

Employees also needed to be notified they had the right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday and by law, should they elect not to work the day, their refusal would not have a negative impact on their employment.

Employers would remind their workers they had 14 days in which to notify they did not want to work. If they did not provide the notification within 14 days, they would be required to work.

Employers needed to identify the methods which could be used to accept employee notification. They included delivering their response in person specifying the individual they must give the notice to; emailing their notice specifying the person’s name and providing the individual’s email address; and, if there is a manner of notice stated in the employee’s agreement, the method must also be provided.

A detachable response form must be provided at the bottom of the letter on which the employee could notify their employer of their decision not to work.

A space must be left for the employee to write and sign their name and date their form, Mr Browne said.

"Be sure to include the date of your notice in this portion of the letter so there is no doubt you consulted and met the time frames required."

The consultation time frames were suitable for use with existing staff. Where an employee is hired four weeks or less before Easter, notice should be given to them as soon as reasonably practicable, he said.

In the case of an employee who started work more than 14 days before Easter, they needed to notify their employer no later than 14 days after the day they were provided with notice the shop would be open.

In the case of an employee who started work 14 days or less before Easter Sunday, they must respond as soon as reasonably practicable.

Adhering to the steps outlined by the association should enable the employer to operate their business in Dunedin, Queenstown, Wanaka, and across Clutha and Southland — with the exception of Invercargill and Gore — and avoid attracting a personal grievance, Mr Browne said.

It was important to note Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull had promised to review the DCC policy allowing shops to open, warning any abuse by employers could mean the right to open being withdrawn.

"Our view [is] Mr Cull’s concern is warranted, not because employers will flagrantly flout the new practice, but because the amendment to the Shop Trading Act 1990 is so very prescriptive it is possible some employers will fall afoul of the law without even trying."



Easter Sunday trading is allowed in most of Otago and Southland

• Warnings for employers and employees to adhere by the new, and strict rules.

• Failure to adhere to the rules could mean employers being hit with personal grievances

• Dunedin retailers could lose trading right if the rules are not followed

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