Workers should be able to swap Christian religous holidays with others important to different religions, says the Employers and Manufacturers Association.
The suggestion has come as the Government asks for public submissions on a review of the current Holidays Act.
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the Act affected all business owners and employees and was a significant piece of legislation. However, it had been criticised for its complexity, particularly surrounding the calculation of relevant daily pay.
An advisory group, led by specialist employment lawyer Peter Kiely, would consider submissions.
“The group is keen to hear what Kiwis think about the Holidays Act and what their suggestions are for improving it,” she said.
The group had prepared questions it wanted people to address in their submissions, and they could be found on the Department of Labour website.
Alasdair Thompson, chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) said though New Zealand’s main statutory holidays were closely tied in with traditional religious days off, there was every reason to allow our workplaces the option of swapping them for holidays important to people of people of other religions.
“Many companies close during the Christmas-New Year period and likewise for Easter, so swapping statutory holidays for other days is not easy,” said Thompson.
“But there’s no reason why employees should not be able to swap the same number of days off to celebrate their own religion’s holy days.
“While there should be no law requiring employers to agree to a request to do this, employers would be relaxed about it so long as it was agreed by both the employer and employee,” said Thompson.
“24/7 operations often need someone to work on a public holiday but not the full complement of staff. If some people wanted to transfer their holiday to say, Ramadan, then they should be able to work the current traditional public holiday at their usual pay rate and get the day they really want off on pay.
“This sort of flexibility, where holidays can be transferred by agreement, would be really helpful for both employers and employees.
“It would not work if some people wanted to take Ramadan off instead of Christmas or Easter if a business was closed then, but the entitlement to four weeks personal leave allows plenty of scope for people to take leave to meet their religious needs.”