Thank you for your correspondence about Sunday Trading Laws and for sharing your concerns about calls to relax the laws at this time.
The Employment Rights Act 1996 recognises Sunday as a special day for many people and entitles employees in shops and betting shops to opt out of working on Sunday if they do not wish to work on a Sunday. Unless Sunday is the only day they have been employed to work, all shop and betting shop employees can opt out of Sunday working at any time by giving their employer three months’ notice, even if they agreed to it in their contract.
As you may know, legislation dictates that a large shop may only be open for 6 consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm on a Sunday. If a large shop is restricted by Sunday Trading hours, they must display their opening times both inside and outside their premises. Small shops, measuring up to and including 280 metres, can open any day and any hour with no trading restrictions.
Some large shops are exempt from Sunday Trading restrictions, including airport and railway outlets, service station outlets, registered pharmacies selling only medicinal products and medical and surgical appliances, farms selling mainly their main produce and exhibition stands selling goods. The full list is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/trading-hours-for-retailers-the-law .
There is a precedent for temporarily relaxing Sunday trading laws. This took place during the London 2012 Olympics to support consumers and, of course, the economy as well.
I understand that while some large establishments support a temporary relaxation of Sunday Trading laws during the Covid-19 crisis, other SME businesses have been in touch with me to voice their concerns. These include concerns over preserving Sunday as a special day, possibly for religious purposes, and also concerns about physical exhaustion that working longer hours may cause when businesses have already been working flat-out to stay afloat during this crisis.
I will continue to raise these concerns with my Ministerial colleagues who have assured me that they are aware of the concerns of workers and the range of views on this issue. I understand that the Government is keeping Sunday Trading laws under review throughout this crisis.