Sunday Trading Laws: Guide for every business
Sunday Trading Law was established in 1994 in the UK. The Sunday Trading Act 1994 is a UK law that regulates Sunday opening hours on Sundays in England and Wales. Before the introduction of the Act, Sunday trading was heavily restricted.
The Sunday Trading Act 1994 doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has separate legislation governing Sunday trading. Sunday hours in Northern Ireland are more restricted compared to England and Wales.
In Northern Ireland, large shops (those with a floor area exceeding 280 square meters) are generally permitted to open between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Small shops are not subject to these restrictions.
The suspension of the Act took place in 2021 during the London Olympic Games and Paraoplimics. The law was suspended for eight weeks, which was a temporary suspension that expired at the end of the summer.
What does the Sunday Trading Act 1994 include?
Large shops, those with an area of over 280 square metres, are allowed to open for a maximum of six consecutive hours between 10 am and 6 pm on Sundays.
Small shops (those with a floor area of 280 square meters 3,000 sq ft or less) are not subject to any restrictions on opening hours on Sundays.
All shops are required to close on Christmas Day if it falls on Sunday or Easter Sunday.
The Act balances the need for people to shop on a Sunday with the rights of shop workers and the preservation of Sunday as a day of rest. Shop workers in large shops have the right to reject Sunday working, unless Sunday is the only day they have been employed to work.
Convenience stores can open on Sundays but only for 6 consecutive hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Sunday Trading Laws Background
Sunday Trading law in England and Wales from 1994 represents the compromise legislation compared to Shop Bills 1986. According to this law, the shops can be open for a maximum of six hours. Some of the stores continue to open half an hour earlier to allow the customers to browse but not to buy within the allotted time.
The law has met with significant opposition from shop workers, trade unions such as USDAW, and groups like Keep Sunday Special. But they eventually agreed upon six-hour work on Sundays in return for a promise that Sunday working would be strictly on a voluntary basis.
This decision had an important role in enticing many Labour MPs to back the bill on a vote. Labour MPs asked for a premium pay guarantee, but the Government’s position was that that was a matter for negotiation between shop workers or their unions and their employers, and the Act says nothing about the rate of pay for Sunday work.
Sunday Trading Law exemptions
Certain types of retail establishments are exempt from the restrictions of the Sunday Trading Act 1994, meaning they can open s on Sunday trading hours without any restrictions. The categories of exempt shops generally include:
Farm Shops: Shops that primarily sell produce from the farm where they are located.
Pharmacies: Pharmacies selling medicinal products and medical and surgical appliances.
Petrol Filling Stations: Establishments primarily selling motor fuel.
Large retail shops at airports and railway stations: Shops located in airports, railway stations, and certain other transport facilities.
Newsagents and shops selling newspapers and magazines: Establishments primarily selling newspapers and periodicals.
Motor and Cycle Suppliers: Shops primarily sell or hire motor or cycle supplies and accessories.
Shops in exhibition premises: Establishments selling goods at an exhibition where the public is admitted on payment.
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