In the summer budget, the government announced a consultation on reforming Sunday Trading Laws. This consultation started on 5th August and continued until 16th September 2015. The reforms are intended to give powers to local areas to allow larger shops to open for longer on Sunday’s in England and Wales.
In March 2016, the government was defeated in its attempts to expand Sunday opening hours beyond the maximum six hours. The bill was defeated in the House of Commons by a combination of Conservative, Labour and SNP MPs who argued Sunday should “remain special” and protect valuable family time for workers.
Current Sunday Trading rules in England and Wales
Large shops with over 280 square metres or more of floor space have legal restrictions on their opening hours. Most can only open on a Sunday for a continuous period of six hours between 10am and 6pm. They’re also not allowed to open on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day.
Some shops are exempt from these rules, including off-licences, airports, railways and service station outlets, farm shops, some pharmacies and exhibition stands.
Small shops are free to open when they choose.
Currently, if you want your shop staff to work on a Sunday, this is the situation:
- If the contract of employment you give your staff says they have to work on a Sunday, they’ll have to, when asked, unless they fall into one of the groups below.
If the contract doesn’t mention working on a Sunday, you’d need to issue a change to their contract that’s agreed by both parties before they can work on a Sunday. If staff don’t agree to this change, you could be in breach of contract and your staff could make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.
However, in the following situations your staff may not have to work on a Sunday:
- If they’re an employee who’s a shop worker or a betting worker (i.e. works in a betting shop or as a bookmaker at a sports venue), regardless of size. In Great Britain and Northern Ireland, they have the right to refuse to work on a Sunday by opting out (i.e. giving their employer three month’s notice to do this; they don’t need to give a reason for doing so). If they don’t want to work on a Sunday and opt out, they’re also then protected from dismissal, selection for redundancy and any other unfair treatment (e.g. refusal of promotion or training) that occurs because they opted out and can take a case to an Employment Tribunal if any of these have occurred
- Under the proposed new government rules, workers in England, Scotland and Wales will be able to opt out of Sunday working by giving just one month’s notice, and will be given a new right to opt out of working additional hours (details to follow when this is clear)
- The government also proposes that there’ll be a minimum guarantee of two weeks’ pay where a claim is brought to the Tribunal relating to these rights
- If you employ shop workers or betting workers, employers must give staff the option to opt out of Sunday working within two months of starting work. If the employer doesn’t give this option, employees will only need to give one month’s notice to opt out. Under the proposed new government rules, employers must inform their employees about these rights and a failure to do so will reduce the opt out period required from the employee (from one month to seven days for employees in large shops; from three months to one month in small shops, although the details aren’t finalised)
- If a shop worker has been working with the same employer since before 26th August 1994, they’re protected from having to work on Sunday’s and don’t need to unless – unless they want to. Betting workers who’ve been with the same employer since before the 3rd January 1995 are also protected. Employees can give up this protection and work on Sunday’s by giving their employer a written opt in notice and agreeing what Sunday’s they’re willing to work. These rules don’t apply in Scotland. If an employee opts in, they can change their mind at any time and opt out (giving the notice that employer requires)
- In any of these situations above, if an employee opts out of Sunday working, the employer doesn’t have to offer them extra work on other days instead
- There’s no service length requirement for employees to be eligible for these Sunday rules
- These rules obviously don’t apply if you employ staff only to work on a Sunday
- If you’ve an employee who’s a practicing Christian with strong feelings about Sunday working, they should explain this to you, and you should try to meet their requests (or you may be discriminating against them for their religious beliefs).
You can read more details about current Sunday Trading Laws here.
Employers with shop workers should consider how these changes may affect them and review employment contracts and policies to see if any changes are necessary to these documents and inform staff of the upcoming changes.
If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.
Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.