Employment issues sparked by Sunday Trading

Extended Olympic opening hours may be good for business but could throw up a number of employment issues, says Matthew Lewis, head of retail at Squire Sanders.

The Government will relax the Sunday trading laws, which presently prevent large stores from opening for more than six hours on Sundays, for eight weeks throughout the London 2012 Olympics.

The plan intends to help retailers benefit from the extra custom during the games and further aid the UK economy. With any new legislation, planning in advance is always recommended. Although temporary changes, they throw up a number of employment issues to consider including:

• Whether employers can persuade staff to work extra hours (eg through offering overtime pay) and whether current employment contracts are flexible enough to allow, or require, additional hours
• Will extra staffing costs be worth the risk for the potential of extra business volume?
• Working Time Regulation considerations including rest breaks and average weekly working hours
• Agency workers: this may be an option to cover the Olympic period, but employers need to consider the right to pay equality once agency workers have been engaged for 12 weeks
• Scope for discrimination cases if employees are forced to work Sundays – eg. policies requiring employees to work on Sundays can discriminate against certain religions

It is unclear yet which retailers will capitalise on the ability to open longer hours. Many are looking at the additional staffing costs and the inevitable industrial relations issues in seeking to cover the additional hours.

The plans have been widely criticised by Usdaw, the shop workers union, which believes the changes will have a detrimental impact on shop workers and their families.

It suspects the UK Government of using the Olympics as a cover for its wider deregulation agenda.The FWD was one of a coalition of industry organisations, led by the Association of Convenience Stores, that opposed the government’s plans. The group claims that the cost in trade lost from small stores will be at least £480m this summer and more than £3bn if the plans became permanent.

Story courtesy of www.thebusinessdesk.com

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