Could the proposed extension to Sunday Trading have an impact on Employment?

The Conservative government wants to extend Sunday Trading, good for shoppers, but what about employees?

Michael Lewin Solicitors Head of Employment, Ian Abel asks retailers not to take the prospect of extended Sundays trading lightly.

“Employees could be impacted in a number of ways” explains Ian, “Most significantly for workers that have fixed working hours contracts, retailers may take this as an opportunity to change their terms and conditions in order to ensure that extra hours are covered. Any employee not wanting the extra hours or not agreeing to their changes in contract could then face problems at work.”

Whilst Ian admits that the proposals are in the early stages of discussions, it’s clear that there is a huge appetite in England and Wales for extended Sunday trading, not least the retailers themselves who believe that they are suffering from 24×7 online trading.

“There are obviously lots of people out there that would welcome additional hours; where there isn’t, employers might determine that they need to implement or change rotas or patterns or working and force changes on the employees, but this puts working hours into the hands of the employers and provides them with the chance to increase hours as necessary.” Ian continued.

Any proposed contractual changes should go through some form of consultation with employees and/or unions prior to any changes been made.

Any workers not agreeing to vary their contracts could see them being dismissed and then reoffered employment under the new contracts containing the proposed amendments, which could end up with unwanted legal action been brought against employers. Whilst this could be classed as an “unfair dismissal”, as the employer has offered the employee the chance to mitigate their loss, it’s unlikely a Judge would uphold an unfair dismissal decision in a Tribunal.

“It’s also possible that Sunday trading could impact religious activities (and beliefs), and any form of discrimination based on religion and beliefs is unlawful and could lead to more actions in the Employment Tribunal i.e. people refusing to vary their contract due to a religious belief that they should not be working on a Sunday, as their religion suggest it is a day of rest.”

As Ian says, employers need to consider the impact of additional working hours on a Sunday carefully and talk to employees about how the changes could affect them, before committing themselves to policy or procedure that should see legal action taken against them.

If you are an employee or an employer affected by the potential changes and require advice then call our employment team on 0844 499 9302.

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