Wednesday, December 24, 2014

AAA-14: Answer 3 – Working it

Today’s question from Roger Green is timely, since there are four public holidays this week and next. Roger said:
"It occurs to me: I don't REALLY know what you do. I DO know you have deadlines with weeks that are really busy, and weeks that are more normal.

Could you make this American cry by listing off all the holidays on the NZ calendar, including the weird rules that if, say, Easter Monday falls on a special day, you get ANOTHER day off. Is there a move afoot to cut back on these, in order to make Kiwis more 'productive'?"
First, about me: I’ve been working in the printing and publishing industries for the better part of 30 years. I started by working in a quick print shop in Chicago, got myself a part-time job at a gay newspaper publisher, all of which got me a job with a printer/publisher here in New Zealand.

As I think I’ve said before, my first job in New Zealand made me a sort of “indentured servant” because my whole ability to stay in New Zealand was because of that job. So, when the company ceased trading, it could have meant I’d have to leave the country.

Instead, I got a tourist visa for a few months until I qualified for permanent residence as Nigel’s partner. Permanent residence meant I could work anywhere. So, I got a job at a newspaper publishing company. Nowadays, I do part-time work for a much smaller operation providing specialty publishing services. Each month I have a particular publishing project to do, which keeps me very busy for a little over a week.

Now, about workers in general: New Zealand is pretty generous with time off for workers. For starters, full-time workers get a minimum of four weeks annual leave, though it’s common for some workers, senior managers in particular, to get five weeks of annual leave, the additional week being a benefit.

NZ workers also get 9½ public holidays observed nationwide, plus one additional public holiday called “Anniversary Day”, which corresponds, roughly, to the date their 19th Century province was founded (New Zealand no longer has provinces). So, the date varies by region (ours in the upper North Island, including Auckland and Waikato, is the fourth Monday in January, so January 26 in 2015).

New Zealand’s nationwide public holidays are:
  • New Year’s Day and Day After (January 1 and 2)
  • Waitangi Day (February 6)
  • Good Friday and Easter Monday (dates vary)
  • Anzac Day morning (April 25 – that’s the half day)
  • Queen’s Birthday (first Monday in June)
  • Labour Day (fourth Monday in October,
  • Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 25 and 26)
Queen’s Birthday and Labour Day are fully Mondayised, that is, they’re always on a Monday. Also, Good Friday is always a Friday (of course) and Easter Monday is always a Monday (ditto), so Easter Weekend is always a four-day weekend, no matter what the exact dates are.

What Roger’s thinking of are the other holidays, which have special characteristics. If New Years Day, the day after New Year’s Day, Waitangi Day, Anzac Day morning, Christmas Day or Boxing Day fall on a weekend, then the observation of that holiday is moved to the following Monday. If they fall on a weekday, then they’re observed on that weekday, not on a Monday.

Here’s an example of how that works: Christmas day in 2015 will fall on a Friday, and Boxing Day falls on Saturday. So, we’ll have a public holiday for Boxing Day on Monday, December 28, 2015. The next year, 2016, is a Leap Year, so Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, and Boxing Day on Monday, and that means we’ll get a public holiday on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 to compensate. In 2018, Christmas is on a Tuesday and Boxing Day is on a Wednesday, and that’s when the public holidays will be, too.

I said that Anzac Day morning is the public holiday, and it is, but most workers get the whole day off. Treating it and Waitangi Day like, say, Christmas, means that Monday through Friday workers won’t lose any public holidays.

Also, of those public holidays, 3½ have “trading bans” which means, basically, most businesses have to close on those days (and no TV commercials are allowed, either, apart from promos for the broadcaster’s shows). There are exceptions and odd rules, but that’s the gist of it. Those days are: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac Day morning and Christmas Day.

If a worker is required to work on a public holiday, they’re entitled to at least time and a half. Also, if they’re normally rostered to work on a day that’s also a public holiday, then they also get a paid day off at another time (we call this “a day in lieu”).

I’m not aware of anyone arguing for a cutback to public holiday or annual leave entitlements, even if the business sector sometimes complains about productivity. The thing is, no one would sensibly suggest cutting public holidays as a way to boost productivity because New Zealand workers would never stand for it.

In fact, the current conservative, pro-business government led by the NZ National Party is the one that made Waitangi Day and Anzac Day be treated like Christmas and other special non-Mondayised public holidays. The did, however, change the law to allow full-time workers to “sell” one of their four weeks of annual leave to their employers, something business lobbyists wanted. The entitlement to four weeks remains, but one week can be taken as cash instead of time off. There's sometimes talk of ending the trading ban, but both major parties are steadfastly opposed to that.

So, full-time workers in New Zealand get 10½ public holidays, plus 20 days of annual leave, for a total of 30½ paid days off each year (typically, it's 31 because most workers are off all day on Anzac Day). And, most years we have three four-day weekends. Pretty sweet, really.

Are you crying yet?

It’s not too late to ask a question! Leave a comment to this post, or send an email to me (click the link in the right hand sidebar).


rogerogreen said...

Weeping bitterly.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Sorry about that. But I suppose I should probably also point out that the majority of people employed full-time in non-farm work also work Monday through Friday, which means that they also have weekends off…