"The 2003 Holidays Act is failing those it was meant to protect. It was meant to boost the pay packets of those working on public holidays but instead it's forcing most businesses to shut and leaving employees with less pay not more this holiday season," says Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer, the chairman of the Auckland Council's Business Advisory Panel.
"The intentions of the 2003 legislation were honourable, but now we're seeing one big unintended consequence - that is it's actually forcing businesses shut and workers to cut back their hours when they probably need extra money the most.
"Let's not forget that the previous Labour Government brought in the legislation when the economy was roaring along. Eight years on and many New Zealand businesses just can't make it work. Increasingly more are keeping their doors shut altogether."
Under the 2003 legislation, an employee is entitled to be paid time and a half for working on a public holiday and a day in lieu.
"Initially we saw most cafes and restaurants stay open and add a surcharge, while general retailers just soldered on and stomached the extra staff costs. However with consumer spending down and the public increasingly wary of surcharges, more businesses are now opting to keep their doors closed and their staff home.
"The legislation is actually forcing holidays on staff and cutting their pay packets, not boosting them. What's more the surcharge seems to be upsetting people more than ever. The Government now needs to assess just how counterproductive the legislation is becoming, and look to repeal it.
"It's tragic that young caf workers keen to earn a buck are being told by their bosses that there's no work for them over Christmas and New Year. It's becoming abundantly clear that what was actually designed to protect workers is now seeing them lose work opportunities.
"On Labour Day, the day after the grand final of the Rugby World Cup, many visitors to Auckland will be perplexed to see businesses closed and hospitality forcing a surcharge. We've got to do better," says Cameron Brewer.
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