From 15 March 2015, retail businesses will be subject to new opening hours regulations.
Although one of its aims is to protect families and workers, this change is highly controversial: it may reduce profitability and lead to store closures and lay-offs in some retail chains; it will cause some employees to suffer a pay reduction by losing their Sunday allowance; and it will make it harder for many families to find time for shopping within their busy schedules.
The new law, which does not apply to (among others) restaurants, hotels, pharmacies, airport shops, markets and petrol stations, has been adopted by Parliament and was published in the Hungarian Gazette on 30 December 2014.
Currently, retail shops may open every day, including Sundays. Under the new regulations, they must be closed on all Sundays except for the four Sundays before Christmas, as well as 24 and 31 December if they fall on a Sunday and one further, optional Sunday in each calendar year.
Shops must give at least 15 days’ notice to the commercial authority of their intention to open on Sundays during the pre-Christmas period and on the optional Sunday.
Some retail businesses will be allowed to operate on Sundays and public holidays under specific terms and conditions. These include retail shops in sport facilities during sport events, shops only selling bakery and dairy products, florists and newspaper stands.
Retail shops of up to 200 m2 in size will be allowed to open outside normal opening hours when operated by private entrepreneurs, members of private firms, certain members of business associations or their family members.
In practical terms, this means that supermarkets and hypermarkets with more than 200 m2 of retail space and other retail businesses that do not fall into the exception will no longer be able to open on on Sundays or on national holidays from 15 March 2015. This will also apply to their home-delivery services and therefore on-line shopping will also be limited.
The Authority for Consumer Protection will have the power to conduct inspections to monitor compliance and, in case of breaches, to order temporary closure and impose fines.
From an employment law perspective, these changes mean that Sunday may no longer be scheduled as regular working time for employees working in the affected part of the retail sector. Those working in retail outlets that are permitted to open on Sundays can schedule it as regular working time as long as the rules on Sunday allowances and the requirements of the Labour Code are met.
Law: Act CII of 2014 on the Prohibition of Work on Sundays in the Retail Sector