Sunday trading laws to be relaxed over Olympics
Sunday trading laws will be suspended for eight weekends over this year’s Olympic and Paralympic games, if a proposed Bill is passed through Parliament.
The Bill, first announced in the Budget, has had its first reading in the House of Lords, with Chancellor George Osborne keen to pass the emergency legislation.
Currently, shops with a floor space of more than 280 square meters are restricted to Sunday opening hours between 10.00 am and 18.00pm, however, the proposals mean that larger shops will be able to trade for longer hours from 22 July to the end of the Paralympic games on 9 September. Some of the largest Olympic events, including the men’s 100m final, are to take place on a Sunday.
Business Minister Mark Prisk said: “The London Olympic and Paralympic Games are an opportunity to showcase not just London but the whole of the United Kingdom. By suspending Sunday trading laws in England and Wales, on a temporary basis, we will not only contribute to the overall experience of visitors to the Olympics, but it will also provide a boost in sales and employment to the economy.”
“The Bill will allow more flexibility over the Olympics period, for shoppers, retailers and workers alike.”
Speaking to the BBC, John Cridland, director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) backed the plan, saying: “I think it’s going to do a lot for the spirit of Britain and for the businesses for Britain.”
The business minister also confirmed that suspension was a ‘temporary measure’ and ‘not a test case for permanent relaxation for rules in the future’ after shadow chancellor Ed Balls raised concerns.
John Hannet, general secretary of the worker’s union Usdaw criticised the lack of consultation, saying that deregulation would affect millions of shop workers.
Mark Prisk however encouraged employers to talk to staff about working hours over the Olympics saying: “Retail workers will keep all their legal protections, such as the right to opt-out of Sunday working, but many will want to take the opportunity to work extra or different hours.”
The Government is to hold a consultation with opposition leaders, retailers and employers’ groups and unions before the second reading in the House of Lords of 24 April.