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New law for trading on Easter Sunday

31 August 2016

Parliament has passed the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill, which came into force on 29 August 2016, the day it received the Royal Assent.

The Act amends the Shop Trading Hours Repeal Act 1990, which it also renames as the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990.

The main law change comes with insertion of a new section 4B "Shops in certain areas may remain open on Easter Sunday". 

This states that section 3(1) of the principal Act - requiring shops to remain closed before 1pm on Anzac Day and all day on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, or Christmas Day unless specifically exempted - "does not apply to a shop on Easter Sunday if the shop is located in a district, or part of a district, in which a local Easter Sunday shop trading policy permits shops to open on Easter Sunday."

Territorial authority powers

Territorial authorities are given the power to have a local Easter Sunday shop trading policy to permit shops to open on Easter Sunday in an area comprising the whole or part(s) of an authority's district.

The new law takes an all-or-nothing approach to the policy as it relates to Easter Sunday, prohibiting it from permitting shops to open only for some purposes, or limiting it to particular types of shops or to specified opening times or other conditions (Section 5A(1A)). Shops can either open or not open in a district or part(s) of a district.

To adopt, amend or revoke a local Easter Sunday shop trading policy, territorial authorities are required to use the special consultative procedure. Once it has been adopted, amended or revoked, the authority must make the policy publicly available.

The final decision on a policy may not be delegated to a committee or other subordinate body, and the policy must be reviewed no later than five years after adoption.

Employee rights

The new legislation makes unenforceable any provision in a shop employee's employment agreement which requires them to work or be available to accept work made available on Easter Sunday.

Shop employees are given the right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday and do not have to provide a reason for their refusal. Employers who want employees to work on Easter Sunday must advise the employees that they have the right to refuse to work. This must be done by notice in writing between four and eight weeks of the Easter Sunday.

Employees who intend to refuse to work on an Easter Sunday are required to inform their employer by a notice in writing no later than 14 days after their receive the notification from their employer.

Legislative history

Preparation for the bill came with a Cabinet Paper from the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Woodhouse. This was followed by a regulatory impact statement on 14 July 2015. The bill was introduced by Mr Woodhouse on 22 October 2015 and given a first reading on 3 November 2015, when it was referred to the Commerce Committee. The committee received 107 submissions before the closing date of 21 January 2016, and reported back on 12 May 2016.

The committee report was unusual in that it stated that the votes were tied and it was unable to reach agreement on whether to recommend the bill be passed. The fundamental difference of opinion was on the bill's transfer of power to territorial authorities to decide on whether shops could open on Easter Sunday. The committee also received information from the Regulations Review Committee on the bill's delegated legislation-making powers.

A Supplementary Order Paper on 2 June 2016 made a number of amendments and the bill received its third reading on 25 August 2016.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019