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Push to strip Easter Sunday of public holiday status in SA

Thursday, 2 February 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Easter Sunday could be stripped of its public holiday status in South Australia under possible changes to holiday laws, but business groups are divided over the matter.

 

Under the Holidays Act 2010, every Sunday in South Australia is a public holiday. However, the government has put forward an option to reverse this, bringing the state into line with the others.

 

This would create a need to prescribe Easter Sunday as a public holiday in its own right to retain its status. NSW is the only state to specifically recognise Easter Sunday as a public holiday.

 

The majority of respondents to a South Australian Government options paper on the Holidays Act believe Easter Sunday should no longer be prescribed a public holiday.

 

More than half of 41 employer, retail, union and business groups that responded to the paper do not want the day designated a public holiday. Many are opposed to paying extra penalty rates.

 

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says he “totally supports” the push to denounce Easter Sunday as a public holiday.

 

“It means more people will work on that day [because public holiday penalty rates won’t apply]. It should be time and a half anyway, not double time,” Strong says.

 

But Strong says many businesses will remain closed over Easter regardless of whether or not it is stripped of its public holiday status, pointing out that many people go away on holiday.

 

“Some businesses will be affected because a lot of locals go on holiday, so closing for those days and having a break might be a better option,” he says.

 

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Union wants Sunday kept as a public holiday, obviously wanting its members to continue to receive public holiday penalty rates.

 

But Business SA, along with Myer and Coles, agree with Strong that Easter Sunday should no longer be prescribed a public holiday.

 

According to South Australian Industrial Relations Minister Russell Wortley, the government has “no fixed position” on any of the options being canvassed as part of community consultation.