Would you like an Alternate Day with that?
February 19, 2015
Fast food companies and their zero hours contracts have been getting a fair bit of press recently.
One of the problems employees have with these contracts is the treatment of public holidays.
As one of the protesters from the Palmerston North branch of Wendy’s told the Manawatu Standard, “I’d love my day in lieu, everyone else gets them. I like to see myself as being one of the best workers at Wendy’s, the least they can do is give me time in lieu.”
The employee had worked on Boxing Day and considered himself due an Alternate Day (the Holidays Act term for what used to be known as a day in lieu).
Employers should give an alternate day to any employee working on a public holiday, if that day is an Otherwise Working Day (OWD). Equally importantly, it also determines which of the employees not working should get paid for day.
Unfortunately the definition of an OWD is somewhat vague, and the more flexible an employee’s working arrangement, the harder it is to determine. This is why it’s always going to be contentious in fast food outlets. The fewer employees for which a holiday is considered an OWD, the less it will cost the employer.
In practice, we’ve found a lot of employers look back over past weeks to determine if this public holiday is an OWD. This approach isn’t prescribed in the Legislation, aside from the vague “reasonable expectations of the employer and the employee that the employee would work on the day concerned”. But it seems to be the way most companies with a flexible work force handle it.
In FlexiTime we’ve automated public holiday calculations to simplify this time consuming and error prone process.
Perhaps this work pattern approach should be defined more clearly in Legislation. But that would just be like adding fries on the side. I think the Holidays Act needs to be slid off the tray into the bin.
In a previous blog we described how annual leave could be changed to make it considerably simpler. In the next post we’ll look at how the same change could be applied to public holidays to remove any opportunity for disagreements like the one above to occur.