Government Consults on Proposals to Extend Sunday Trading Hours

The Government is currently consulting with businesses, unions, consumers, religious organisations, local authorities, and the general public, in an effort to decide whether or not to extend Sunday trading hours.

The current Sunday trading laws were introduced in 1994 and limit the opening hours of large stores (with a relevant floor area over 3,000 square feet) to six hours on a Sunday. Much has changed in the past 20 years, and in particular the advent of the internet has altered the shopping habits of millions of consumers: it is now thought that in excess of 11.5% of all sales are conducted online, compared to 2.8% a decade ago.

Extension Could Create Thousands of Jobs

The Government calculates that relaxing Sunday trading laws would encourage consumers back to the high street. The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has predicted that extending Sunday trading rules would help create thousands of jobs, improve productivity, give consumers greater choice and result in benefits for the British economy to the equivalent of £1.4 billion per year.

Nevertheless, there are conflicting opinions on whether removing Sunday trading restrictions is the correct thing to do. For example, the Church of England has commented that Sundays should be preserved for the sake of “family stability and community life”, whilst Usdaw, the trade union for shop-workers, says that the proposed changes will create “chaos” in the retail sector.

Councils to Decide for Themselves

It is also anticipated that Councils in England and Wales will be given the final choice of whether they want to ease the current rules in their area, should the proposals to relax the existing legislation be implemented. The consultation period is open until the 16th of September 2015, and a further announcement is expected later on this year.