Open for business? Shop trading on Easter Sunday

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Authors: Bronwen Norrie, Renee Yoon and Tim Clarke

​​After many years of shutting up shop, some retailers will be able to open for business on Easter Sunday again this year – but they should be aware of a number of employee rights if they choose to do so.

Amendments to The Shop Trading Act 1990 came into force in 2016, and now allow shops in various locations to open for business on Easter Sunday, subject to employers complying with new notice requirements for retail employees.

Previous restrictions typically limited Easter Sunday trading to shops which sold food and drink, petrol, gardening equipment, services (such as haircuts) or souvenirs. Now, councils (city, district or lake) can decide whether to allow, limit or ban shop trading in their territorial areas on Easter Sunday. Some city councils such as Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch and Wellington have continued to ban shop trading on Easter Sunday, while various district councils in Wellington, as well as other areas such as Taupo and Dunedin now allow retail shops to open for trade. 

A list of councils which have policies allowing shop trading on Easter Sunday can be found here.

If you would like your employees to work on Easter Sunday, here are five important points to take note of:

  1. An employer must provide employees with at least four weeks' notice, and no more than eight weeks' notice, before Easter Sunday if they would like employees to work on Easter Sunday. For 2018, Easter Sunday falls on 1 April, so this notice must be given to employees between 4 February and 4 March 2018.
  1. This notice must be given in writing and either delivered in person, sent by email or in the format specified in the employee's employment agreement.
  1. The employee must be told of their right to refuse to work on Easter Sunday. If the employee refuses to work, they do not have to provide reasons for declining work. 
  1. If an employee chooses not to work on Easter Sunday, their employer cannot treat the employee adversely. If an employee has been treated adversely for declining to work, or if they have been pressured to work on Easter Sunday by their employer, the employee can bring a personal grievance against their employer.
  1. If an employer has shops across New Zealand, the employer may be able to open for trade on Easter Sunday in some areas, but not in others. Employers risk a fine of up to $1,000 if they open their shops for trade on Easter Sunday without authorisation, so employers should check whether relevant local councils have a local Easter Shop trading policy in place.

Lastly, it's worth noting that Easter Sunday is not a public holiday. This means that employees who do choose to work on Easter Sunday are not entitled to receive public holiday entitlements such as time and a half, or a day off in lieu, as prescribed by the Holidays Act.

If you or your business has any questions regarding any of the issues raised in our article, please contact one of our team or your usual Bell Gully adviser.


This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.

For more information
  • Tim Clarke

    Partner Auckland
  • Rachael Brown

    Partner Wellington
  • Rosemary Wooders

    Senior Associate Auckland
Related areas of expertise
  • Employment and workplace safety