The proposed suspension of Sunday trading restrictions during the Olympics could lead Chester retailers to fall foul of employment law rules, local lawyers have warned.
Chester-based law firm SAS Daniels is urging those businesses that plan to extend their opening hours to make sure they take the necessary legal steps before the proposed rules are introduced on 22 July.
Current legislation states that large stores (over 280 sq m) cannot open for more than six hours on a Sunday between the hours of 10am and 6pm.
However, the government has announced it intends to suspend Sunday Trading restrictions for eight consecutive Sundays in the summer
John Cook, Head of employment at SAS Daniels, said: “Relaxing Sunday trading restrictions will certainly provide an economic boost to Chester’s retailers, but there is much for business owners to consider ahead of extending opening hours.
“In particular, employers must be mindful of employment law issues. If employers do choose to stay open for longer on a Sunday, they need to begin a process of consultation with their staff asap, to establish whether they are able to cover these increased hours. They should also take into consideration the legal implications around working hours, annual leave requests and whether or not they wish to offer incentives, financial or otherwise, to encourage those employees to work on a Sunday.
“Protected shop workers and opted out shop workers, such as religious groups whose Sabbath falls on that day, are not required to work on Sundays and should not be dismissed or subjected to a detriment for their refusal to do so.
“If arrangements cannot be made with existing staff, employers need to consider recruiting temporary staff or agency workers for this period, taking into account the sudden increase in demand for temporary staff during this time.”
The firm also warned that those employers seeking to change employees’
normal working hours to include a Sunday may also require a contractual change to their existing terms and conditions. If these changes are imposed without the consent of the employee there is a risk of Constructive Unfair Dismissal claims.
The Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on the 28th March 2012 and is due for a second reading on 28th April 2012. Due to the time constraints in regards to the introduction of this legislation the Government are proposing to fast track the legislation in order for it to become law at the start of May 2012. The relaxed rules would commence on Sunday 22nd July and end on Sunday 9th September.
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