Business development · 3 February 2016

Sunday trading rules: Devolution set to boost UK high streets

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The rules on Sunday trading have not changed for over 20 years

Struggling high street businesses and small firms in city centres stand to benefit from new government plans to devolve Sunday trading laws to local authorities and councils, it has been announced.

As part of a package of measures brought forward in the government’s Enterprise Bill, local councils will be authorised to “zone” relaxations to Sunday trading laws, driving custom to high street businesses by enabling longer opening hours.

Announced by the business secretary, Sajid Javid, the measures also include greater freedom for shop workers in England, Scotland and Wales to decide against working on Sundays on religious grounds or because of family commitments.

In large stores, workers will be required to provide one month’s notice should they no longer want to work on Sundays, down from the previous three-month notice period, and have the right to choose not to work additional hours. In addition, the duty on employers to notify workers of their rights about working on Sundays will be strengthened.

Javid said: “Extending Sunday trading hours has the potential to help businesses and high streets across the UK better compete as our shopping habits change. The rights of shop workers are key to making these changes work in everyone’s interests.

“It is local people who will make the decision. These new powers are about giving local areas the choice to extend Sunday trading hours to meet the needs of their local businesses and communities.”

Devolved power will go to unitary and district councils in England, county and county borough councils in Wales and the Mayor of London’s office. In Scotland, Sunday opening is unrestricted, whilst the rules on Sunday trading are devolved to Holyrood.

Figures published by the government revealed that the downturn in trade experienced on Britain’s high streets in recent years has been caused at least in part by the rise of online shopping, which has changed people’s buying habits. Online businesses accounted for 12.8 per cent of retail spending in the build up to Christmas last year, up from 2.4 per cent in 2006.

“The rules on Sunday trading for our high street stores and bigger outlets have not changed for over 20 years, meaning they cannot compete with this new online competition,” Javid continued to say.

First announced in September last year, the Enterprise Bill aims to make Britain the best location in Europe to start and grow a business by cutting red tape and encouraging investment. A newly appointed small business commissioner will work to improve regulatory standards and and make it easier for small firms to resolve payment disputes.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage was previously 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.

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