The government is set for a row with retail unions over proposals to allow supermarkets and other large shops to open for extra hours on Sundays, according to weekend reports.
Alan Johnson, the trade and industry secretary, said it was “sensible” to consider the step after supermarket chains argued that Sunday was now their busiest day of the week, reports the Sunday Times.
He has commissioned an analysis of the costs and benefits of the change, which would require legislation.
Under the current law, which was introduced in 1994, large shops can open for six hours on Sunday, usually opting for 10am to 4pm. Small shops and corner shops can open whenever they like.
It is likely that the government will not allow full liberalisation, opting instead for similar hours to bank holidays of 9am to 6pm.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw is opposed to longer opening hours, arguing that premium payments for Sunday working have been “remorselessly eroded” since 1994, and most stores now only pay week-day rates to Sunday staff.