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Will changes to Sunday trading rules threaten the protection of retail workers?

The aim of the proposals is to ensure that local areas are given a say in what is appropriate for their own particular area in terms of Sunday trading, and give consumers, local businesses and workers more choice and opportunities. The government has said that similar measures introduced temporarily for the London Olympics proved a success.Currently, the law only allows larger stores to open for six hours between 10am and 6pm on a Sunday, except for Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. Certain retail workers are protected by the Employment Rights Act 1996, which allows them to ‘opt out’ of Sunday working by providing notice to their employer, who must then excuse them from any work on a Sunday.Although reassurances have been provided by the government, there is concern that the new trading laws will make it difficult for retail workers to ‘opt out’ of Sunday working. The government has not completely ruled out making changes to the protection, but changes will be limited to ‘that which might be required to ensure the same level of protection applies following any amendment to the current Sunday trading restrictions’.The protection afforded to retail workers is seen by many as a vital way in which to maintain their family life. Although the proposed new rules may leave the ability to ‘opt out’ in place for retail workers, longer opening hours could mean that employees are pressured to work more on a Sunday, and lose time with their families that they otherwise might have had. Employees could also be in the position where they are asked to work different hours and days to accommodate the new rules.Are changes to Sunday trading likely to affect you? Speak to us. Our Employment Team is highly experienced in advising on changes to terms and conditions of employment and will be happy to discuss your options with you. Call 01302 320621 or email

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