The Government has been warned not to use the coronavirus pandemic to extend Sunday trading hours.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma is apparently pushing behind the scenes for the current rules to be relaxed.
What’s are the current laws?
At the moment, large shops (over 280sq m/3,000 sq ft) on Sunday can open for six continuous hours only between 10am and 6pm and must be closed on Easter Sunday.
Longer Sunday trading hours not part of the answer
Shop workers union USDAW said that while it could ‘appreciate the sentiment behind the call’ it does not believe longer trading hours on a Sunday are part of the answer.
It might seem strange and bizarre to be opposing the extension of Sunday trading hours. However, there are two very good reasons to do so.
Firstly, when people argue that extending Sunday trading hours is good for business and would aid the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. However, it’s wise to be cautious with such an argument. In 2012, during the Olympics in London, Sunday trading rules were temporarily relaxed. The result? Trade moved away from smaller stores to largest stores and the overall result was a decline in retails sales.
Secondly, the purpose behind Sunday trading restrictions is a positive one, namely, to promote time off in common. It means there is a day when shop staff and others who work in the retail sector can have time with their families. This is good for family life and helps provide much needed balance in life as well.
It is worth noting that by the Government’s own ‘family test’, extending trading for largest stores on a Sunday fails that test.
Any plans to extend Sunday trading for larger stores to aid the COVID-19 economic recovery must be specifically time-limited. There is good reasons to suggest such a move is unnecessary and would not in reality provide that much help. Just as important as our economic recovery is the need to maintain family life and time off in common.