Supermarkets will be able to stay open on Easter Sunday but not Good Friday, the Government has confirmed, so that essential workers can get a break.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement on Tuesday, explaining how a balance has been struck so that supermarkets aren't closed on two days because it could prevent the public from accessing food.
Good Friday is on 10 April, the weekend after next, and Easter Sunday falls on 12 April.
Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government recognises that communities are concerned about getting essential items and the only alternatives to supermarkets during lockdown are dairies.
He said it's also important that supermarket workers are able to take a break during the lockdown, with demand for groceries surging since takeaway services were forced to close for four weeks during COVID-19 alert level 4.
"Given most supermarkets are normally closed on Easter Sunday, it is important that employees know they still have the right to refuse to work that day," Lees-Galloway said. "I am sure that employers will act fairly to those who don't want to work and want a well-earned break."
He encouraged Kiwis to "consider the strain on supermarkets" and to only shop for what is needed, after supermarkets were flooded with customers following the lockdown announcement, stretching supplies.
The Government has asked the Labour Inspectorate not to penalise supermarkets that remain open but will still assist workers who have been coerced into working on Easter Sunday as usual, Lees-Galloway said.
He said supermarkets, unions and community agencies were consulted before the decision was made on opening over Easter, and that a range of views were considered, such as the religious significance of Easter Sunday for many people.
Trading on Easter Sunday is allowed under the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 under certain circumstances and so will not require a law change for supermarkets to stay open.
The announcement comes as the Government looked into accusations of supermarkets engaging in price-gouging since the lockdown started, but Ardern said on Monday no evidence has been found.
She said complaints about unfair pricing can now be directed to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) at email@example.com.
It comes as Countdown has announced that from this week, stores across the country will open at 8am to provide a priority shopping hour each day for uniformed emergency services and medical personnel.