The Government is pressing ahead with proposals to allow local authorities the power to extend Sunday trading hours which are expected to be introduced in the autumn.

As things stand, under the Sunday Trading Act 1994, shops over 280 square metres ("large shops") can open on Sundays but only for 6 consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm, and must close on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.

Under the Enterprise Bill, the Government proposes to give local authorities across England and Wales the power to extend Sunday trading hours. This includes the option to create zones of relaxed hours such as local high streets and shopping centres.  

The proposals also aim to strengthen the rights of those who do not wish to work longer hours on a Sunday by: 

  • reducing the notice period from 3 months to 1 month for staff at large shops to opt out of working on a Sunday
  • giving staff the right to opt out of working longer than their normal Sunday hours by giving 1 months' notice at large shops or 3 months’ notice at small shops
  • guaranteeing a minimum award (usually two weeks’ pay) where a related claim is brought and an employment tribunal finds that the employer failed to notify the shop worker of their opt out rights. 

The Enterprise Bill is currently making its way through the Houses of Parliament and is expected to be in force in the autumn. If the current proposals become law, the Government's view is that it will help local areas to support high street traders and compete against online traders. It will also bring England and Wales in line with places such as New York and Dubai which do not have the same trading restrictions.

There are concerns, however, that the proposals will mean that staff will spend less time with their families and may drive trade from the small to large stores. For retailers with multiple large stores across the UK, the inconsistency in approach from one area to another may also be met with some frustration. Retailers may wish to check any restrictions within any planning permissions or licences in anticipation of the changes.