Sunday Trading Laws

Really, in my view, these need scrapping.

Regardless of religious aspects, it makes a lot of sense for people to have a regular break from work, such as weekends, etc. It makes sense to have employment laws that means not forcing people to work non stop in terms of times of day or days in a row. I understand that commercial interests could win out and start employing people silly hours if allowed, and sadly people that want the money would do that. What is sad is that a self employed person does that anyway in many cases even now. So these laws do not work anyway!

What I don't get is the special Sunday trading laws. Disallowing large stores from opening more than just 6 continuous hours on a Sunday, e.g. 10am to 4pm.

Why large shops only?

I assume this was done so as to not penalise the small shops, but that actually makes no sense from an employment law point of view. A lot of small shops have very few employees, maybe even only one, and so they end up working all hours - the classic "open all hours" TV show is an example. Surely they are exactly the sort of case for not being able to force people to work all hours or all days?

Big shops are in a much better position to have people on shifts and rotas so that everyone gets a couple of days off every week, but overall someone is covering all the time and maybe even people are paid extra for weekend working if they want it.

So it makes no sense to have different rules for large or small shops from an employee exploitation point of view, and obviously makes absolutely no sense from any sort of religious point of view.

Why Sunday?

I assumed it was religious, but we know more than half the UK is not religious at all, and the other half (ish) is a mix of religions. Not doing work on a Sunday applies to some specific religions only, and even then some of those see the "sabbath" as Friday just before sunset to Saturday around sunset (when you can see three stars in the sky) and not in fact "Sunday" at all. Bear in mind the days of the weeks are all named after much older gods than these religions. There is no real reason to work with one specific religion here. Indeed, other laws would prohibit doings do if this was not actually a law!

So why not allow each shop, and perhaps for each employee, the observance of their individual religion and the periods they consider they should not work? Or better still not have this crap at all!

It does not work well!

Today I expected (and was not disappointed) Tesco to be packed. We had something to do first then go to Tesco, but the laser engraver was not configured as I expected (my fault) so we went to Tesco early, just before 9am, on the off chance that Christmas Eve was "different".

They officially open 10am to 4pm, the maximum 6 hours allowed. But they open doors 30 minutes before and the Costa in store is allowed to sell coffee at that time, so people "browse" before they can buy. We drink coffee before we buy. Simples.

This time, Christmas Eve, they opened 9am, but did not tell the Costa staff. We got a trolley of shopping, and waited for 9:25 when they served us coffee, then the scan&shop opened so we scanned the shopping, and at 10am we went through till, and by 10:03 we were leaving a car park that was totally full! It is amazing how much extra traffic there is for a shop that is closed for a single day!

Staff were there well before 9am, working, and will be there well after 4pm I am sure.

The staff are doing as much work as if they started at 9am, surely? The first hour is probably hectic with all the people with full trollies queued at the till waiting for Sunday Trading to allow them to start. All Sunday trading laws does it make them work harder!

So who does this Sunday trading law actually help - not staff - not shoppers - so who?

I wonder

Clearly, browsing is allowed. Indeed, some time ago the scan&shop things did not start until 10am, but I bet they got loads of complaints as people filling baskets without them got to do so, but not those using the self scan stuff. They changed, and they are now available early, just the check out is not open until 10am.

What next? Getting a quote for your basket. That is not "trading" so that should be allowed.

What about providing card details in advance, ready for when the sale can complete? Surely that has to be allowed?

What of the shop doing an authorisation check on the card - not actually concluding the sale, just checking you have enough money for when they do open? That can't be "trading" surely?

What of lending you the basket of shopping for approval. Not sold you you yet - that will happen at 10am. Surely lending stuff is not trading?

At what point does it become the case you can shop as normal, pre 10am, but at 10am you get emailed a confirmation of your sale that happened at 10am using the card you provided and authorised in advance when you left the store at 9:10am.

At that point, can we please scrap these crazy laws.

But do keep some protection for employees anyway...


  1. It's not an employee protection thing any more, either. We have adopted the Working Time Directive, which (among other things) requires that you have 11 consecutive hours off in any 24 hour period and one day out of 7 off work.

    So, even absent Sunday Trading laws, the WTD would ensure that all employees got time off every week, and didn't work continuously.

    1. Yeah, bad news on that... There are moves by some politicians to scrap that in the Brexit repeal bill, so while we have it now, we might not have it come March 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/18/brexiteers-paid-holidays-millions-britons-eu-working-time-directive-rights

  2. The trick about naming a single day is that then working people can be sure of having the same day off as their working friends and relatives. Since obviously you don't want to privilege religious people over atheists, who would presumably get to choose their own day, how long do you really think it would be before Tesco says "oh, of course, a condition of your employment will be that your day off is Tuesday"?

    Which worked for domestics in the 1920s, maybe not so well now.

    1. The same day off unless their friends and relatives work in any sector at all except large retail stores.

      I mean, if they are friends with say a call centre worker or a nurse, all bets are off.

  3. I completely agree. You should make a petition for this with the points bullet-pointed so it's clearly communicated to the masses. Also point out that the idea that the trading restrictions protects employees does not really hold water these days given that we're a 24/7 economy and employers have a duty of care anyway, on all the other days of the week, when it comes to working hours. It also seems it would benefit the local economy, and allow business to standardise their business operations for the entire week.

  4. So, on a Sunday those who want to "Keep Sunday Special" expect the Power and Gas to be on, TV and Radio to receive programmes, Emergency services to be dealing with emergencies, family outing location to be open and restaurants to be open.

    But being able to go somewhere where you can buy food to cook yourself... This is where they draw the line.

  5. Adrian almost got there - the restrictions are to protect small shops who, previously could trade on Sundays and therefore had one day a week when they were free of competition from supermarkets. When supermarkets were allowed to trade on Sundays a small, probably inadequate, concession was made to the Arkwrights of this world.

    Whether you believe we still need this is open to debate.

    1. Unfortunately most small independent shops don't bother to take advantage of this. My local suburban high street is completely shut down on a Sunday with the exception of the bookies, so even that argument now falls down.

    2. Strangely, we still have a ton of smaller stores in Glasgow despite the larger stores being allowed to operate 24-7

  6. It's got to be a small minority of workers employed in large retail stores. Given that this law does nothing to protect factory workers, call centre workers, healthcare workers, street cleaners, office staff, etc etc, and is a limit on opening hours NOT employment hours (can employ staff to restock shelves out of hours) the suggestion that it is in the interests of staff is a joke.

    The Tory govt actually wanted to scrap this but the SNP blocked it, despite having no such restrictions in Scotland.

  7. Asda's Click and Collect service is open from 8am on Sundays, as the 'trading' happens online!

  8. RevK look at Polish workers ;-)
    It doesn't sound bad...

  9. Scotland doesn't have this insane 6 hour Sunday trading rules. Initially when Sunday trading in Scotland came in when I was a kid, the DIY stores would sell an item of fruit to get around the original rules which were removed. Shops that are open 24/7 really are open 24 hours a day. (Rather useful for some of my overnight bike rides.)

    When I moved to London around 9 years ago, I was really thrown by the early closing on Sundays and had a few occasions when I'd miss the larger stores. When I mentioned the difference in Scotland, staff were very precious about the Sunday hours. Even now (having moved to Ipswich) I still find it rather strange how early the large shops close on a Sunday.

    1. The government tried to repeal the sunday trading restrictions, but the SNP blocked it for fear that stores would stop paying time and a half to workers in Scotland...


    2. http://www.itv.com/news/2016-03-08/why-has-the-snp-decided-to-veto-sunday-trading-law-changes/ highlights that it's common to be paid time and a half for working Sunday. I knew many several people who would specially work the Sundays due to the extra pay on Sundays, which isn't common in England as far as I'm aware.

    3. Yep, that's what I used to always work long shifts on Sundays when I was in a call centre. To my knowledge, most shops still pay time and a half on Sunday in England, in fact, it would be more likely to happen were shops open longer on Sunday as they would need more staff, and staff still have the right to opt out of Sunday working. Maybe this is why time and a half is more prevalent in Scotland, if that is indeed the case.

  10. If we're talking about employee protection, I'd scrap Sunday trading laws, keep the Working Time Directive, and I'd make it illegal for unpaid (free) overtime. If you have your employee doing work, you should be paying them at least their hourly rate.

    1. It depends on what level the employee is at. Above a certain level the individual is simply paid a fixed annual fee to "do whatever it takes". That's how I viewed it once I was paid over £60k and certainly when I was paid £120k. You do what it takes. But when the boss questioned me on my whereabouts at 4pm on a weekday afternoon (after I had been in since 7am) he got short shrift. He never asked again. One's whereabouts are irrelevant provided one is delivering results. Most low-paid workers don't understand this and can only understand presenteeism.

    2. For very high paying jobs/contracts I can understand the sentiment to an extent.

      I know someone who is paid a pittance to be on call (something like 1K p.a.) every other week, but not paid for the overtime. Which is ridiculous. On the other hand, if employees accept this nonsense...

      I also know this applies to a lot of jobs that are not anywhere near the top end of the scale. These days, employers tend to use their vast power to negotiate in their favour, and one sided terms like no paid overtime are part of that. The company will make some BS justification for it while they make money hand over fist. You are expected to be available 24/7. Well no, I'm not (unless you're paying me to be so - I have had these jobs and that's fine).

      Even contracting is going that way, going from hourly to a "daily" rate. Well sorry, but a standard day is 7.5 hours, so that's what you get!

      Thankfully IT ops seems to have kept paid overtime, at least for the moment.

    3. Standard day of 7.5 hours! If only! You won't get the serious jobs and clients thinking like that. It's a 24x7 economy and if you don't play to that game then clients/employers can and will drop you like a stone.

  11. If you want a better service, you pay for it. This goes for anything throughout life... except for employment seemingly these days.

    If you want longer days, if you want stuff to be fixed in the middle of the night, that is absolutely fine. But you have to pay for it. Employees are not mindless machines that exist only to serve your will, despite what some psychopath managers out there think.

    Only a sucker works for free. I'm not on call for free. I'm not working 12 hours for the price of 7.5. If you want 12 hours, you pay me 12 hours. If you want me on call, you pay me to be on call, and then you pay further for my time if needed.

    I've been called in at obscene times of the morning to fix things. My employers hired me for this and paid me for this accordingly. And whenever I got called up, I was 100% fine with it.

  12. I wonder whether a man who seldom goes into the office of his own firm that's only open slightly extended office hours sees the irony in demanding that people with no bargaining power work whenever their employer demands and have no common family time?

    1. Wow, like I have any "family time". Running a company (whichever office I am in) is a pretty full time job regardless, and so is be being on call for things going wrong in the middle of the night. Also, I am not sure what relevance your comment has to my gripe about shop opening times - as others have pointed out - this is not about employing people - a shop can employ people all day Sunday if they want, stacking shelves, stock taking, whatever, it is about inconveniencing shoppers that may want to shop there for outdated historical reasons that are not remotely relevant to most people these days. My post also stresses the importance of maintaining protection from people that do want to exploit employees, if you actually read it!

    2. For that matter, there are no restrictions on any work other than retail. If retail employees can't be allowed to work when they please, the same "protection" needs to be extended to restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, and indeed every other person who is clearly at great risk of being compelled to work outside of 10am-3pm Monday through Friday excepting bank holidays.


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