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Early finish for workers for Melbourne Cup punt

Published: 5:34AM Monday November 05, 2012 Source: Fairfax

It is known as the race that stops two nations, but for office workers, Melbourne Cup Day may just mean knocking off half an hour early.

Productivity losses from New Zealand employees downing tools for the race have been put at $19.5 million - but that is a pittance compared with the estimated $1 billion loss in Australia.

The time difference means the race is not until 5pm in New Zealand, which explains why about 70% of Kiwi workers take about 30 minutes off work to watch the race and have a flutter in office sweepstakes, according to a 2010 Ranstad survey.

However, human resources analysts said any short-term loss in productivity was usually made up in employee morale in following weeks.

Employee events were worth it, said Greg Mikkelsen, general manager government, enterprise and trans-Tasman at Gen-i.

"The benefit of colleagues being together and galvanised around something and being part of it . . . far outweighs any concerns we have in productivity loss. We find that staff are very appreciative."

Gen-i and Telecom staff at their Wellington and Auckland offices will knock off at 4pm for an office "day at the races".

Mikkelsen said workers looked forward to Melbourne Cup Day.

"It's a bit like the end of the soccer World Cup . . . people will sneak off to watch it, or they can come to a more formal event."

Money raised would go to Telecom Fund charity Sweet Louise, he said.

Vector chairman Michael Stiassny, a former New Zealand Racing Board chairman, said he would probably let workers take a half-hour break to watch the race.

"You've got to remember in New Zealand it's about 5pm . . . My workplace will probably disappear at about 4.30pm to go and watch it."

Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce spokesman Jeremy Harding said many businesses just accepted that they would close early.

"It's often a good opportunity for team building. In general, businesses aren't worried about absenteeism."

In Wellington, the Australian High Commission is hosting an invitation-only charity event for about 300 people.

The Featherston Bar & Grill in Featherston St will be showing the race and will offer a TAB betting table service.

Lovelocks, in Bond St, is offering free nibbles all day, and Four Kings in Taranaki St has free nibbles and a drink from 2pm to 4pm with All Whites coach Ricki Herbert announcing the race.