Sasha Borissenko: Legal loophole leaving contractors and shift workers out in the cold

OPINION:

Daylight savings and Easter meant chocolate and a sleep-in for some, while for contractors it meant spending the weekend crying over not properly recording the last year’s business expenses.

While I kicked myself repeatedly over failing to account for my student loan and ACC levies this past financial year, National MP Erica Stanford was phoning me on Easter Sunday to tell me I had royally misrepresented her property interests in last week’s column.

What would Jesus do in this situation, I wonder?

To clarify, the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests says she owns a family home – in Ōkura. It also states she has an interest in a family home in Ōkura, and a holiday home in Whangamata. The latter two are owned by her parents’ family trust. The register also says she’s a beneficiary in the Poppelbaum Family Trust.

While it may have been helpful had the MP responded to my email prior to publication, she kindly informed me after the fact that the Poppelbaum Family Trust was in fact the “parents’ family trust” the register referred to. It’s a case of not owning three properties now, but this may be the case in the future, in other words. Glad we could clear that up!

Easter Tuesday?

Come Tuesday, parents and caregivers the world over were scrambling to find childcare while the kids stayed at home as a result of a little-known school holiday known as “Easter Tuesday”. It’s not a statutory holiday, which means adults had to go back to work. While it usually falls on the first term break, it didn’t in 1997, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2016, 2018, and again this year.

The holiday is prescribed in the Education Act 1989, which reads: “every board must ensure that every school it administers is closed on Saturdays, Sundays, New Year’s Day,January 2, Waitangi Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, Anzac Day, the Sovereign’s birthday, Labour Day, Christmas Day, [and] Boxing Day”.

It is not a registered public holiday under the Holidays Act 2003, which explains why parents had to go back to work.

It’s an example where parenting and working doesn’t align, speaking of which, I’ve never understood why school traditionally finishes at about 3pm – leaving working parents at a disadvantage and out of pocket for two hours a day, five days a week.

What's happening with Matariki?

In other news, there’s forever that painful stretch between Queen’s Birthday weekend (June 7) and Labour Day (October 25), but next year Ngā Mata o te Ariki, more commonly known as Matariki, will be celebrated on Friday, June 24, making that stretch a little easier to stomach.

Matariki changes from year to year thus a Matariki Advisory Group was formed to ensure that Mātauranga Māori was at the forefront of the date decision-making. The group consisted of Professor Rangiānehu Matamua, Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, Rereata Makiha, Victoria Campbell, Dr Pauline Harris, Dr Ruakere Hond, and Jack Thatcher. Legislation is expected to be introduced later this year to amend the Holidays Act allowing for the additional holiday, but when that will be is still to be determined.

Legal loophole leaving contractors out in the cold

From an employment perspective, while it’s all very exciting for those who work Monday to Friday, contractors, and those who work shifts are often left out in the cold. The Holidays Act requires employees who would otherwise work on public holidays to get time and a half and a day in lieu, or they get the day off.

Employers otherwise have no obligation to give contractors or shift workers that benefit – if anything they’re incentivised not to make considerations for contractors and shift workers.

The loophole seems inconsistent to the Holidays Act’s purpose, which reads: “this Act is to promote balance between work and other aspects of employees’ lives and, to that end, to provide employees with minimum entitlements to annual holidays to provide the opportunity for rest and recreation”.

According to 2020 Statistics NZ survey results, two-thirds of employees had worked outside the Monday-Friday 7am-7pm standard hours at least once in a four-week period. What does this mean in reality?

As flexible-working and the four-day week gains momentum, we should be pushing for a pro-rata policy based on the number of days someone works, irrespective of the employment contract.

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