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Public holiday drama, dread

While public holidays are generally considered a welcome respite from the usual working week, or at least an opportunity for extra pay, some of us dread them.

Yes, dread them.

Largely for the uncertainty.

Which shops will open? What time do bars close? Is public transport disrupted? Will my lunch come with a side of surcharge?

According to the Department of Labour, employees are “entitled to a paid day off on a public holiday if it would otherwise be a working day … separate from and additional to annual holidays.”

Employees who are made to work on these days “should be specially rewarded”. Generally, this is via time and a half pay, which is legally the minimum paid to an employee on a public holiday.

Different entitlements apply to each type of holiday. In New Zealand we have, 1) Christmas and New Year holidays, and, 2) “all other holidays”.

The first category includes Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and the day after. Weirdly, it also includes Waitangi Day (6 February, today) and Anzac Day (25 April), because they have fixed dates.

As of this year, such holidays evoke “Mondayisation”. This means that if the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday that would not otherwise be a working day, it is transferred to the following Monday or Tuesday. On the other hand, if the holidays falls on Saturday and Sunday and the employee usually works this day, then they are given a paid day off.

However, law limits employees to no more than four public holidays, regardless of work patterns.

The second category includes Good Friday and Easter Monday (dates variable), Queen’s Birthday (first Monday in June), Labour Day (fourth Monday in October) and Provincial Anniversary Day (date determined locally).

There are only three and a half days of compulsory shop closure per year. Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and until 1pm on Anzac Day.

According to a survey published by the Restaurant Association of New Zealand in March last year, just over half of the industry (59 per cent) open their businesses on public holidays, which was down from 62 per cent in 2010.

However, more business that do open are reluctant to slap on a surcharge, even if it means losing money that day. Many restaurant and cafe owners said their reason for doing so was a sense of public service.

In last year’s survey 62 per cent indicated they did not apply a surcharge, up from 45 per cent in 2010. For those who did apply a surcharge, the average amount was 15 per cent.

When the day arrives, my public-holiday-dread turns into frustration. The local cafe is closed, nobody is available for an interview, and, when I called the Department of Labour, I’m met with an automated response:

“Please call again on the next business day”.

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