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Insight

Sunday trading and the Sunday opt out

Nick Thorpe
23/04/2014
Come on, hands up, who did a bit of gardening or DIY over the Easter weekend. While UK shops reported an overall drop in footfall over the Easter weekend, retail parks and DIY stores fared much better Come on, hands up, who did a bit of gardening or DIY over the Easter weekend. While UK shops reported an overall drop in footfall over the Easter weekend, retail parks and DIY stores fared much better with a reported 6.1% increase in footfall over the long weekend period. However, Easter Sunday remains one of the few days that large stores (such as DIY stores) are restricted from trading. Christmas day being the only other day. Large stores are also restricted to six hours trading on any other Sunday.

These measures were seen as a compromise when the Sunday trading laws were first introduced in 1994. However, it is reported that Philip Davies MP is going to put down amendments to the Government's Deregulation Bill after the Easter recess to abolish all restrictions on opening large stores on Sundays, arguing that such restrictions are now out of date.

While Mr Davies' amendments do not appear to have the backing of the Government, according to reports the Government has not ruled them out. So, what might this mean for retailers and retail workers?

Retail workers currently have the right to opt out of Sunday working (a right limited to retailer workers and not workers in any other industry – see earlier post). The exercise of the opt out does not have to be religious based, but employees must give their employer three months' notice if they wish to opt out. There does not appear to be any suggestion that this right should be abolished with the proposed extension of Sunday trading. But is the Sunday working opt out also a thing of the past?

In practice very few employees elect to opt out of Sunday working. But retailers need to be mindful of the opt out when workforce planning. Retailers will also need to consider whether they continue to offer shift premia for Sunday working if the Sunday trading laws are changed and Sunday becomes just another normal trading day. Retailers who are currently reviewing their pay structures to take account of the recent run of holiday pay cases should therefore be mindful of the potential changes to Sunday trading laws.

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