The new Labour MP for Dunedin North, David Clark, had beginner's luck yesterday and his member's bill was one of just two drawn in a ballot of 40 bills. This means it will go on to the parliamentary order paper, and be debated later this year.
The bill, if passed, will change the law so that if Waitangi Day or Anzac Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then you get the Monday off as a paid public holiday. The exception is if you normally would work on the actual day of the holiday, in which case you get that Saturday or Sunday off as now.
The catalyst for the bill occurred last year when Waitangi Day was on a Sunday and Anzac Day on Easter Monday, so most people had nine days of public holidays instead of 11 days.
Before discussing the merits of the bill, it is worth looking at how often people end up with fewer than 10 public holidays. Looking forward for the next decade, we have:
Waitangi Day - Sat Feb 6, 2016, Sat Feb 6, 2021, Sun Feb 6, 2022
Anzac Day - Sat April 25, 2015, Sat April 25, 2020, Sun Feb 25, 2021
Incidentally the bill will not solve the issue of Anzac Day falling on another public holiday such as Easter. But this is very rare - Anzac Day occurs on Easter Sunday in 2038 and Easter Monday in 2095, so I think people may just have to lump that one or blame the method of calculating Passover!
One of the issues with this bill is the impact on business. It would be lovely to have 20 public holidays, eight weeks' paid annual leave and every second Friday off. However, our businesses would become less profitable, resulting in fewer jobs and lower wages. There is a cost to the economy of any increased cost on employers.
But how significant would this law change be, in terms of labour costs? On average it will result in two extra days of paid holidays every seven years. Over seven years there are around 1600 paid workdays, so the increase in labour cost is 2/1600 or 0.12 per cent.
This is a pretty modest increase in labour costs. It is about 1/16th the cost of having a 2 per cent employer contribution to KiwiSaver.
I'm an employer myself, but I'm in favour of this bill. As an employer I budget for 11 public holidays a year anyway when working out my staff costs, and I suspect most employers do the same. This law change would give certainty to both employers and employees, and the impact on labour costs is very modest.
Do you agree with the proposed law change?
David Farrar is a centre-right blogger affiliated to the National Party. His disclosure statement is here.
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