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Sunday Working – rules and regulations

Updated 2016.

If you are asked to work on a Sunday, do you have to? Here is a run-down of your rights.

It will, of course depend on what your contract says! If your contract says you have to work on a Sunday then you will have to, when asked, unless you fall into one of the groups below. If your contract doesn’t mention working on a Sunday then you would need a change to your contract that is agreed by both parties, before you should work on a Sunday. If you do not agree to this change then this could be a breach of contract and you could make a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

In the following situations you may not have to work on a Sunday:

  • If you are an Employee who is a shop worker or a betting worker (i.e. works in a betting shop or as a bookmaker at a sports venue), in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, you have the right to refuse to work on a Sunday by ‘opting out’ (you need to give 3 months notice to do this but you do not need to give a reason for doing so). If you do not want to work on a Sunday and ‘opt out’ you are also then protected against dismissal, selection for redundancy and other unfair treatment (e.g. refusal of promotion or training) that has occured because you opted-out and can take a case to an Employment Tribunal if any of these have occurred.

  • Although the Government’s plans to devolve Sunday trading hours to local authorities was defeated in 2016, some changes will be introduced in 2016 and this includes reducing the 3 month notice period to opt out of Sunday working to 1 month for staff who work in large shops (date tbc). Also in 2016 workers will be entitled not to work more hours on Sunday beyond their ‘normal sunday working hours’ by giving an objection notice to their Employer (notice of 1 month for workers in large shops and 3 months for other shops) – again date tbc. It is possible that workers may need to have 1 years service before they have the right to serve an objection notice – tbc. Employers will not be able to reject an objection notice.

  • And if you are a shop worker or betting worker your Employer must give you the option to ‘opt out’ of Sunday working within 2 months of starting work. If they do not give you this option you will only need to give 1 months notice to ‘opt out’. In 2016 this will change to 7 days for workers in large shops and one month for other shop workers (date tbc).

  • If you are a shop worker who has been with the same Employer since before 26th August 1994 you are protected from having to work on Sundays and do not need to (unless you want to). And if you are betting worker who has been with the same Employer since before 3rd January 1995 you are protected also. You can, of course, give up this protection and work on Sundays by giving your Employer a written ‘opt in’ notice and agreeing what Sunday’s you are willing to work. These rules do not apply in Scotland. If you ‘opt in’ you can change your mind at any time and ‘opt out’ (giving the notice that your Employer requires).

  • In any of these situations above, if you ‘opt out’ of Sunday working your Employer does not have to offer you extra work on other days instead.

  • There is no service length requirement to be eligible for these Sunday rules.

  • These rules obviously don’t apply if you are employed to work only on a Sunday.

  • ‘Large’ shops are defined as thos with an internal floor area of 280 square metres or more (parts of the shops that is not used for serving customers, including selling and displaying goods, does not count towards this area).

  • If you are a practising Christian who has strong feelings about Sunday working you should explain this to your Employer, who should try to meet your requests (or they may be found to have discriminated against you for your religious beliefs).


Will you get more money for working on Sundays (or time off in lieu)?

This depends on what your Employer agrees – they do not have to pay you more legally.

What rest breaks should I get if I work on a Sunday?

If you work on a Sunday you are covered by normal Working Time Directive rules which are the need to have a 11 hour rest break between shifts, a 24 hour rest break in each 7 day period (of 48 hours in each 14 days) and a 20 minute rest break if your shift is longer than 6 hours.

However, your Employer is also advised (although these are not legal requirements) to:

  • Give you at least 1 weekend in 3 off, and

  • Give you reasonable notice if they change your shift patterns.


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 6 hours between 10am and 6pm. They are also not allowed to open on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day.

  • Some shops are exempt from these rules, including off-licences; airport, railway and service station outlets; farm shops; some pharmacies; exhibition stands.

  • Small shops are free to open when they choose.

Consultation on reforming Sunday Trading Laws started on 5th August 2015 and continues until 16th September 2015. This is intended to give powers to local areas to allow larger shops to open for longer on Sundays in England and Wales. The Government were defeated in their plans to reform Sunday Trading Laws on 9th March 2016 and you can read the details here (from The Guardian).

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.

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