Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse says the current rules surrounding shop trading over the Easter period are complicated and arbitrary.
The current law allows certain shops selling specific items to remain open on Easter Sunday, while others must close their doors.
Shops in Queenstown and Taupo are allowed to open on Easter Sunday because of tourist exemptions, while, puzzingly, shops in Wanaka and Rotorua can’t.
Stores such as dairies, service stations, duty frees, takeaway shops and restaurants and pharmacies are allowed to open provided they meet the required conditions.
Shops that aren’t supposed to open on Easter Sunday but do are liable for a fine of up to $1000.
Some retailers in the past have gone ahead and opened anyway, as their profits far exceeded the fine.
Retail NZ chief executive Mark Johnston said earlier this year that the legislation was outdated and unfair on bricks and mortar retailers, as ecommerce shopping isn’t hindered by the law.
Fashion retailer Annah Stretton agreed and called it “ridiculous” that Easter trading laws don’t take ecommerce into account.
“It is a matter of urgency that we review our archaic retail laws and bring them into the new century, drafting new ones that are more pro-choice for both workers and shoppers,” she says.
“The profits garden centres receive more than cover the $1000 fine they pay to trade on that day – proof that there is demand from customers for stores to be open. If customers want to shop, and workers want to work – why is the Government stopping them?”
Woodhouse says the current trading laws mean that some businesses and regions have an unfair advantage over others.
He says the law change will also give workers the right to decline or accept work if they’re offered a shift on that day, with no reason necessary for declining it.
This allows workers to still take leave over the Easter holiday if they want to, Woodhouse says.
East Sunday is the only law undergoing a change, as he says there is too much religious and cultural significance attached to Good Friday, Anzac Day and Christmas to change them.
The Bill is likely to be introduced in the coming weeks.
The effects of it are expected to take place from Easter 2017.
Retail NZ today welcomed the new changes, but called for the Government to go further.
“It’s great news for shoppers and retailers alike that more flexibility is being proposed, but there is a place for considering whether the Government has any place in 2015 regulating shopping hours, outside the ANZAC Day remembrance period,” Johnston says.
“Shopping is a now a family pastime. Kiwis love to shop, and the Government shouldn’t be trying to regulate when that happens. No matter what the day, nobody should be forced to shop, no shops should be forced to open, and no employees should be forced to work.”
Johnston says he is concerned about the impact of delegating decision-making to local authorities, saying Retail NZ would prefer to see a national approach. He says bylaw processes across councils will create significant costs for ratepayers and compliance costs for businesses.