Business development · 11 February 2016

Sunday trading laws: Devolved powers to extend opening hours due in autumn

Sunday trading laws
High streets will be able to make the most of the increased tourism opportunities by varying opening hours

In an attempt to counter the might of online retailers, the government has announced changes to the Enterprise Bill that will hand power back to Britain’s high streets by giving local councils the right to extend Sunday opening hours.

Set to be introduced in autumn 2015, amendments to the Bill will give local retailers the flexibility to seasonally adjust store opening hours to enable them to compete more effectively for custom. The measure comes as part of the government’s wider plan to hand the power to change Sunday trading laws back to local authorities.

In the run-up to Christmas last year, the government reported that internet retailers accounted for 13.8 per cent of all retail spending. It is hoped the new measures will go some way to reversing the trend.

In a statement, business minister Anna Soubry said: “Extending Sunday shopping hours has the potential to help small businesses and high streets better compete as people’s shopping habits change.”

Seasonally varying Sunday trading hours may also mean high streets can make the most of the increased tourism opportunities currently enjoyed by countries that have already introduced the measure. According to the tourist authority Visit Britain, Sweden’s local retailers have seen turnover increase by five per cent since full deregulation.

“This is part of a package of measures allowing councils to ‘zone’ any relaxation to Sunday trading law to be able to prioritise high streets and city centres,” added Soubry.

The measures also look to empower shop workers in England, Scotland and Wales with greater freedoms. Employees will be able to “opt-out” of working on Sundays if they choose to, due to family commitments or on religious grounds, and will have the option to choose not to work overtime on a Sunday.

Just one month’s notice will be required by shop workers in larger stores that they no longer wish to work on Sundays, down from the previous three-month period, and the duty on employers to fully notify employees of their rights about working on Sundays will be strengthened.

Unions have reportedly condemned the proposed changes. General secretary of the shop worker’s union Usdaw, John Hannett, told The Mail: “What the government is proposing is undesirable and unworkable. The claims to be offering additional protection for shop employees amounts to nothing more than has existed for 20 years.”

For more on the people and policies changing the micro business landscape this year, check out our Small Business Decision Makers 2016.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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