This Commons briefing paper sets out the current legal position in respect of shop opening hours. It considers recent attempts to devolve Sunday trading rules to local areas. It also outlines new rights for Sunday shop workers contained in the Enterprise Act 2016.Jump to full report >>
On Mondays to Saturdays, all shops (regardless of their size) are free to remain open for as long as they wish. The situation is different in respect to Sunday trading.
The Sunday Trading Act 1994 (the STA 1994) regulates Sunday shop opening hours in England and Wales. There are no equivalent restrictions to the STA 1994 in Scotland, but there are similar restrictions in Northern Ireland.
Currently, under the STA 1994, a distinction is made between large and small shops in respect of permissible trading hours. For the purposes of the Act, a shop is classified as being large if it is over 280 square metres or 3,000 square feet in size. On Sundays, large shops may open for no more than 6 continual hours between the period 10am and 6pm. All large shops must close on Easter Sunday and on Christmas Day.
In contrast, there are no opening restrictions for small shops (under 280 square metres or 3,000 square feet). In effect, a small shop could open twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year, including Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, if the owner so wished.
On 5 August 2015, the Government published a consultation paper on whether Sunday trading rules should be devolved as part of its localism agenda in order to give areas greater control of their local economy. The move followed an announcement by George Osborne, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his summer Budget in July 2015.
The Government published its response to the consultation on 9 February 2015. It announced that it would take forward proposals to devolve powers to local councils on Sunday trading, and strengthen the rights of shop workers to ‘opt-out’ of working Sundays, by tabling amendments to the Enterprise Bill [HL]. Although the proposals to allow councils to extend opening hours were dropped after the House of Commons voted against them on 9 March 2016, the Enterprise Act 2016 will bring in new rights for Sunday shop workers. These changes will be introduced when a commencement order brings schedule 5 to the Act into force, amending the Employment Rights Act 1996. No date has yet been set for implementation.
This Commons briefing paper sets out the current legal position in respect of shop opening hours. It considers the Government’s recent attempts to devolve Sunday trading rules to local areas. It also outlines new rights for Sunday shop workers contained in the Enterprise Act 2016. Finally, this paper provides useful Sunday trading statistics.
Commons Briefing papers SN05522
Authors: Lorraine Conway; Chris Rhodes