Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced at the ACT Labor conference over the weekend that as of next year, Easter Sunday will be a public holiday – the 14th public holiday in the ACT.
The Chief Minister referenced the need for a clear work/life balance to protect time with our family and friends, as well as having a clear recognition of the cost of having to work outside the traditional Monday to Friday working week.
When I worked in retail, I remember feeling super ripped off when I had to work Easter Sunday and would miss out on our big family lunch with all my extended family, and I wouldn’t get paid more than the Sunday before or after. I obviously agree with penalty rates and I think having them in place is the right thing to do.
However, I wonder how this will affect Canberra. A lot of people go away for the Easter weekend and I think Canberra is pretty quiet that time of year. With three public holidays in close succession (Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday), we could end up with a lot of small businesses shutting up shop and taking off for Easter themselves.
There are a handful of cafes in Canberra that open on Good Friday and they make an absolute killing, lines out the door and a long waiting list, picking up all the extra customers that would have usually gone elsewhere on a regular day. I think this is a pretty smart move by cafes to stay open, especially if they know cafes in their immediate area are going to be closed.
I think it’s difficult for small business that aren’t cafes with a busy clientele – for example smaller speciality stores are probably more likely to close for the whole weekend because I assume the cost of staff would be far greater than the weekend’s takings.
There’s always one or two hospitality venues that complain about penalty rates until the cows come home, but if you look at these venues on any regular day – they’re fairly average and it begs the question, are they just using penalty rates as an excuse for their failing business?