Sunday Trading extension plans ‘could have significant employment impact’

Retail businesses have been urged by specialist employment lawyers to not ignore the ‘significant impact’ that the proposed extension to Sunday trading hours could have on their workforce, with the plans unveiled in the Budget this week.

Local government across England and Wales will be given powers to relax current regulations regarding trading if it is felt such a move will boost the local economy. It is thought that any changes would be subject to a consultation before being introduced.

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Reacting to the plans, specialist employment lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have said that the changes could create both pros and cons that employers will have to consider if they want to take advantage of such plans.

Glenn Hayes, a Partner and expert in employment law at Irwin Mitchell, said, “The proposals for long trading hours on Sundays could have a significant impact from an employment angle in a number of ways. In terms of the position for workers, some may be keen to take as many extra hours as possible or alternatively there could be a rota or contractual pattern which allows their employer to dictate the hours they work and increase them where necessary.”

“However for workers who have fixed hours, businesses may have to change terms and conditions in order to make the required changes to contractual terms and ensure any extra trading hours are covered.”

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“It may well be the case that workers would agree to this, but if not, this could leave employers in the difficult situation of potentially having to go through the process of effectively dismissing them and then immediately offering contracts featuring the desired new terms. This carries the risk that claims could ensue if there is not a sufficient sound reason to make those changes, and a consultation process to take in to account and consider the individuals’ views before making any changes.”

He continued; “Another factor that should not be overlooked is whether the extension of a worker’s hours on Sunday might in any way impact on their religious beliefs and activities. It is of course unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a member of staff because of their religion or belief, but employers are able to discipline – or in serious cases dismiss staff – who are not willing to subordinate their beliefs temporarily in order to fully perform their role.”

“This is dependent on them establishing that another person not sharing the particular beliefs would have been treated in the same way or that the requirement to work longer on a Sunday is ‘justified’. In this scenario, this would mean showing it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim of the requirement to work longer on Sundays and is applied equally to everyone.”

“Tribunals related to religious discrimination involving Sunday working are already not uncommon and there is the possibility that these changes could lead to further issues arising.”

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