Sunday Trading extension plans could have significant employment impact

2015-07-15 Philip posted:

Retail businesses are urged not ignore the significant impact that the proposed extension to Sunday trading hours could have on their workforce, with the plans unveiled in the Budget last week.

Customers may welcome longer hours, but will employees be as receptive?

Local government across England and Wales will be given powers to relax current regulations regarding trading if it is felt such a move will boost the local economy. The changes could create both pros and cons that employers will have to consider if they want to take advantage of such plans.

The proposals for longer trading hours on Sundays could have a significant impact from an employment angle in a number of ways. In terms of the position for employees, some may be keen to take as many extra hours as possible or alternatively there could be a rota or contractual pattern which allows their employer to dictate the hours they work and increase them where necessary.

For those who have fixed hours, businesses may have to change terms and conditions in order to ensure the extra trading hours are covered.

It may well be the case that employees would agree to this, but if not, this could leave employers in the difficult situation of potentially having to go through the process of effectively dismissing them and then immediately offering contracts featuring the desired new hours. This carries the risk that claims could ensue if there is not a sufficiently sound reason to make the changes. Businesses should consult with employees and take in to account and consider the individuals’ views before making any changes.

The changes could lead to an increase in issues around religious discrimination.

Businesses should not overlook the possibility that the extension of an employee’s hours on Sunday might in some way impact on their religious beliefs and activities. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a member of staff because of their religion or belief, but employers are able to discipline – or in serious cases dismiss staff – who are not willing to alter how they observe their beliefs temporarily in order to fully perform their role.

Tribunal claims related to religious discrimination involving Sunday working are already on the increase and there is the possibility that these changes could lead to further issues arising. Disciplining or dismissing an employee in these circumstances carries significant risk and you are advised to take expert advice before you contemplate such action.

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