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Currently, large shops are restricted in the hours that they are allowed to open on Sundays. However, the Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Act 2012, which received Royal Assent on 1 May 2012, suspends laws on Sunday trading hours during this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This means that shops with floor space of more than 280 square metres will not have any restrictions on Sunday opening hours between 22 July and 9 September, although the restrictions on Sunday morning loading and unloading still apply.

If any employees already have the right not to work on Sundays, they will not be affected by the Act. However, they can give an opting-in notice expressly agreeing to work on Sundays in general or on one particular Sunday during the suspension period.

The government has published guidance for employers and employees on the act’s effect on shop workers and the right to opt out, available here.

Opting out of working during Sunday trading hours

Any employees who only work on Sundays will not have the right to opt out and those who work occasional Sundays need to provide an employer with written notice to opt out of Sunday working, which must be signed and dated. If the notice specifies that they are only opting out for the suspension period, they do not have to give notice of opting in.

If employees do not want to work during the suspension period of Sunday trading hours rules, then they must give their employer the following notice:

  • If the notice period for opting out that applies to the employee is normally one month, then this still applies and the notice periods below do not apply;
  • If the employee gave notice on or after 1 May but on or before 22 May 2012, then the notice period ends on 21 July 2012 and they would have the right not to work on 22 July 2012 (i.e. the day the suspension period begins);
  • If the employee gave notice on or after 22 May 2012 but on or before 9 July 2012, the notice period ends two months after the day on which notice is given;
  • If the employee gives notice on 9 July 2012, the notice period ends on 8 September 2012 and they have the right not to work on 9 September 2012;
  • If the employee gives notice on 10 July 2012 or later, the notice period of three months applies (unless the one-month notice period applies instead).

If an employee opts out, then this will only take effect at the end of the notice period. Employers will not be required to pay workers for the Sundays they do not work and  the employees’ individual contracts will specify whether their employer has to offer them work on other days.

Employment Tribunals

Employers should not subject employees to a detriment (for example, failing to promote them) or dismiss them for refusing to work on a Sunday, unless they are already required to work on Sundays under their contracts of employment. Employers could face Employment Tribunal proceedings for automatic unfair dismissal on the ground that the employee was asserting a statutory right or the employee could seek damages for potential loss of increased salary and injury to feelings if they were not dismissed. In these circumstances, there is no qualifying period of service in order to bring a claim.

Employers should think about holding discussions with employees as soon as possible, as together, they may be able to agree mutually acceptable ways forward for both parties about working Sunday trading hours during the suspension period.

Lyons Davidson’s employment teams are happy to provide advice on this or any other employment matter. For more information, please contact our Employment Law team or call us on 0117 904 600.