Business

How Canberra's first Easter Sunday public holiday will affect businesses

Canberra's retail and hospitality workers could clean up 10 days worth of pay for four days work over the Easter long weekend but industry groups are warning it's an unfair burden on small businesses.

This is the first year Easter Sunday will be a gazetted public holiday in the ACT.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced last year Easter Sunday would become the 14th public holiday in the ACT in 2016.

But the Australia Retailers Association's executive director, Russell Zimmerman, said many retailers would not open this Easter long weekend due to the "prohibitive" labour costs associated with public holiday penalty rates.

He warned mum-and-dad operators were most likely to feel the pinch as some can't afford not to open.

"Retailers opening their stores across the Easter weekend will be forced to bear the brunt of very high costs up to two-and-a-half times penalty rates. In the ACT that could mean for some retailers four days of penalty rates," Mr Zimmerman said.

Advertisement

"We respect the fact people want some kind of penalty rate and we don't think that penalty rates should be completely removed. If you've got penalty rates sitting at double-and-a-half time, it makes it unviable for retailers to open."

The ACT currently leads Australian  in the number of public holidays it has, although Victoria is not far behind.

Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Robyn Hendry said while the gazetting of Easter Sunday as a public holiday had  "less impact" because it was  already "bookended" by Good Friday and Easter Monday, some in the business community felt  the ACT had far too many public holidays.

"Some in hospitality have indicated a preference not to have a public holiday this weekend. Easter is an opportune time for tourism and some in the hospitality and business sector have not embraced the increased cost to their bottom line.

"The broader business community has felt that public holiday is okay if we could reduce another," Ms Hendry said.

"The issue is really around the total number of public holidays as that puts us as having the most in Australia. For our size in jurisdiction we don't believe that's an area we really need to lead in."

Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Jo Broad said that while they support a "reasonable" number of public holidays, they do come at a cost to employers.

"Making Easter Sunday an additional public holiday makes it more difficult for businesses to open their doors and provide employment," Ms Broad said.

"I definitely think it'll have an effect on businesses who were in two minds about opening up. It's not great for business and for tourism."

Bunda Street cafe Akiba is one of the handful of Canberra cafes remaining open for all four days of the long weekend.

Its general manager, Andy Day, said it was important they stayed open due to the cafe's central location.

"We're right in the city and if this place wasn't open or the places around it wasn't open, it wouldn't be so much a city, it'd be a big country town," Mr Day said.

Similarly Richard Watkins, who owns Braddon brewery Bentspoke, said it "never entered into his mind" to close for Easter Sunday.

"We'll be open every day except Christmas day. At the end of the day we're here for the customer. Customers want to come to the pub when they want.

"We aren't as profitable on a public holiday but our staff work pretty hard and we're happy to pay them extra for sticking around."

But Misty Taylor, who owns Paleo Perfection on Kingston Foreshore, said her decision to close on Sunday and Monday came down to family.

"I run this by myself and I have a six-year-old – Easter is all about her," she said.

ACT public holidays

  • New Year's Day - Friday, January 1
  • Australia Day - Tuesday, January 26
  • Canberra Day - Monday, March 14
  • Good Friday - Friday, March 25
  • Easter Saturday - Saturday, March 26
  • Easter Sunday - Sunday, March 27
  • Easter Monday - Monday, March 28
  • ANZAC Day - Monday, April 25
  • Queen's Birthday - Monday, June 13
  • Family and Community Day - Monday, September 26
  • Labour Day - Monday, October 3
  • Christmas Day - Sunday, December 25
  • Boxing Day - Monday, December 26
  • Christmas Day extra public holiday for Sunday - Tuesday, December 27
Advertisement