Legal Q&A: Sunday working changes for shop workers

National Sunday Shopping Day in 1993 - before the Sunday Trading Act came into force. The Times/REX/Shutterstock

Although plans to allow local authorities to extend Sunday trading hours were recently defeated in the House of Commons, the Government is pressing ahead with increased shop worker rights on Sunday working through the Enterprise Act 2016. Qian Mou, employment law editor at XpertHR, answers employers’ questions on the Sunday working changes.

Q: What rights do workers currently have in relation to Sunday working?

At the moment, shop and betting workers (except those who only work on Sundays) can give their employer notice that they would like to opt out of Sunday working.

An employer who receives an opt-out notice cannot schedule the shop or betting worker for Sunday work from three months after receiving the notice.

Employers are required to give information on this right to their shop and betting workers, and if a worker exercises this right, his or her employer is not allowed to penalise the worker or to dismiss him or her as a result.

Q: What are the changes to Sunday working rights?

The Enterprise Act 2016 gives shop workers a new right to object to working more than their normal Sunday working hours. Shop workers will be protected from detriment and dismissal as a result of exercising this new right.

The notice period for large shop workers exercising both the right to opt out of Sunday working and the right to object to working additional hours on Sunday will also be reduced to one month. For all other shop workers, the notice period will remain three months.

Within two months of the changes taking effect, employers will have to issue an explanatory statement of these rights to all shop workers who may be required to work on Sundays.

When new shop workers come on board, employers will have to issue explanatory statements within two months as well.

Sunday working rights for betting workers will not change.

 Q: Are there penalties for shop owners who fail to implement the Sunday working changes?

If, after the Sunday working changes take effect, an employer has not issued explanatory statements within the required time frames, the notice period for a shop worker’s Sunday working rights will be reduced.

The notice period will decrease from one month to seven days for large shop workers, and from three months to one month for all other shop workers.

Employers that penalise or dismiss a worker for exercising Sunday working rights may face a complaint in the employment tribunal for detrimental treatment or unfair dismissal. There is no minimum service requirement for this type of claim.

Employers that fail to issue explanatory statements on Sunday working may also have to pay a worker two to four weeks’ pay if the worker is successful in a separate employment tribunal claim, for example for detrimental treatment or unfair dismissal.

Q: When will these Sunday working changes take effect?

The Government has yet to indicate when the changes will take effect.

Q: My shop workers work varying hours or take turns working on Sundays. What are their normal Sunday working hours?

We are waiting for regulations on how to calculate normal Sunday working hours, so employers should look for more information in the coming months.

Q: What actions should employers take to comply with the changes to Sunday working?

Within two months of the changes taking effect, employers should issue explanatory statements to all shop workers who may be required to work on Sundays. The explanatory statements must cover both the right to opt out and the right to object to additional work on Sunday.

If you receive a notice to opt out or a notice of objection to additional work from a shop worker, check the relevant notice period and apply the changes to the employee’s schedule accordingly.

Finally, employers should remember that workers cannot be penalised, dismissed or selected for redundancy as a result of exercising their rights related to Sunday working.

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