Back in March 2016, government plans to give local
authorities the power to alter Sunday trading rules were defeated
by an unlikely alliance of Labour, the SNP and Conservative
backbenchers. But not all of the proposed changes to Sunday trading
laws contained in the Enterprise Act 2016 fell by the
Provisions strengthening shop workers' rights in relation to
Sunday working were passed. In particular, reduced notice periods
for large shop workers wishing to opt-out of Sunday working and a
new right for shop workers, regardless of the size of the shop, to
object to working "additional" Sunday hours.
It was originally anticipated the changes would come into force
in October 2016, as with many pre-Brexit employment law proposed
changes, post-Brexit implementation dates have slipped down the
Government's priority list.
It now looks increasingly unlikely that the enhanced rights for
shop workers contained in section 33 and schedule 5 of the
Enterprise Act 2016 will actually be brought into force any time in
the foreseeable future, if at all.
What are the pending changes?
Notice period for opting out to be reduced
The existing three month notice period to opt out of Sunday
working (unless Sunday is the only day they have been employed to
work) will be reduced from three months to one month for workers
who work in large shops – i.e. those where the internal floor
space used for serving customers or displaying goods occupies more
than 280 square metres. For those working in smaller shops, the
notice period will remain unchanged at three months.
New right to object to "additional" Sunday hours
A new right for both large and small shop workers (but not
betting workers) to object to working additional hours on Sundays
beyond their "'normal Sunday working hours"
simply by giving an objection notice to their employer.
Employers will be unable to reject such notice. 3Revised written
Not only new recruits, but also existing shop workers already
employed at the date the amendments to the legislation takes place
and who may be required to work on a Sunday, must be given a new
explanatory statement. Employment tribunals will also have a new
power to award compensation (capped at two to four weeks' pay)
for the employer's failure to provide an explanatory
Why are these changes significant?
The changes to Sunday working rights are likely to cause a
significant administrative headache for some retailers. The
introduction of new rights for employees not to work additional
hours on Sundays, together with a reduction in the notice period
for employees in large shops who wish to stop working on Sundays
altogether, may cause potential problems for retail employers
trying to ensure sufficient levels of staffing for weekend
Calculating workers' 'normal Sunday working hours'
may also prove difficult. While 'normal Sunday working
hours' is to be defined in future regulations, the Act suggests
that a rolling calculation period may apply, which may challenge
some retailers' HR systems.
An administrative headache averted?
Retailers may be relieved to hear that the implementation of the
Sunday working changes is now understood to be on hold. The new
enhanced rights were introduced into the Enterprise Act as part of
a 'package of measures' including the power for local
authorities to extend Sunday trading hours. As the provision to
allow extended Sunday trading hours never made its way on the
statute book, the government now wishes to take more time to
consider such enhancement to shop workers' rights to object to
Sunday working are in fact needed at all. As to timescale, well
with Brexit priorities, further consideration unlikely to be any
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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In SSE Generation Limited v Hochtief Solutions AG and another decided on 21st December 2016, the Court of Session in Scotland considered a contractor's potential design liability under the NEC Form of Contract.
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