Supermarkets in the country are allowed to stay open on Easter Sunday but will be closed on Good Friday to allow workers a well-earned break, the government announced.
Iain Lees-Galloway, minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, said supermarkets will be able to open during the COVID-19 lockdown for Easter Sunday so the public can purchase essential food, drink and household goods.
“The government recognises that communities are concerned about getting essential items and there are few alternatives to supermarkets at this time,” Lees-Galloway said.
Lees-Galloway said it is also important that workers are able to take a break during this busy period, so supermarkets will stay closed on Good Friday.
“This provides a balanced approach and ensures we avoid large queues that two days closure may cause,” he said.
According to Lees-Galloway, employees still have the right to refuse to go to work on Easter Sunday given that most supermarkets are normally closed on that day.
“I am sure that employers will act fairly to those who don’t want to work and want a well-earned break,” he said.
“I encourage everyone to consider the strain on supermarkets at present and to only shop for what you need as usual, and keep using the distancing rule when shopping.”
The government said it 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.
The government announced supermarkets, unions and community agencies were consulted before a decision was made on opening over Easter.
“There are a range of views on this issue and we also acknowledge the religious significance of Easter Sunday for many people,” Lees-Galloway said.
Staying open on Easter Sunday is permissible under the existing provisions of the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 and does not require a law change.