The Government is to proceed with its plans announced last week to allow local councils to have control over Sunday trading hours, despite opposition from unions and even some Conservative backbenchers.
John Hannett, General Secretary of shop workers’ union Usdaw, said: ‘Devolving Sunday trading to over 300 local authorities will strangle the retail industry in red tape. What the Government is proposing is undesirable and unworkable.
‘91% of our members working in retail oppose longer Sunday trading because they know it will have an adverse effect on family life and put them under even more pressure to work longer hours on a Sunday.’
Conservative backbencher David Burrowes MP also criticised the proposals, saying: ‘The Government should still listen to the significant opposition to this unnecessary and unwanted plan. Otherwise, I look forward to leading an unholy cross-party alliance in defeating a measure which is anti-family, anti-small business and anti-workers.’
Alongside the devolution of Sunday trading laws are measures to provide greater freedoms for shop workers in England, Scotland and Wales to ‘opt-out’ of working Sundays if they choose to – for example, because they object on religious grounds or for family reasons. Shop workers will now be able to give just one month’s notice to large shops that they no longer want to work Sundays, down from the current three months, and will have a new right to opt out of working additional hours.
Business Minister, Anna Soubry, said: ‘Extending Sunday shopping hours has the potential to help businesses and high streets better compete as our shopping habits change.
‘The rights of shop workers are key to making these changes work in everyone’s interests. We are protecting those who do not wish to work Sundays, and those who do not want to work more than their normal Sunday working hours.’
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has given the proposed measures a qualified welcome. Chief of Staff, Matthew Fell, said: ‘The Government’s Sunday trading proposals are part of a broader devolution agenda aimed at creating economic growth on all UK regions, which businesses support.
‘But when devolving powers, especially at pace, it’s important to consult widely and take on the views of communities and businesses. That’s why we’re keen Sunday trading laws are introduced incrementally to avoid unintended consequences, such as operational and distribution problems for businesses or confusion for consumers.’