Letter from the Department of Trade and
Industry to the Clerk
Thank you for your letter of 7 November.
We apologise for the confusion created by our suggestion
in the RIA that the proposal would 'allow large shops to adjust
their opening hours at much shorter notice than currently because
they will not have to give 2 weeks advance notice of changes in
planned opening hours'. To provide a fuller reflection of our
views, the RIA ought to have gone on to explain why we do not
expect this to happen in practice.
As your letter recognises, although concerns were
raised by USDAW and Blackpool Borough Council, about a potential
impact on staff, both did nonetheless support our proposals. When
we spoke to USDAW officials (after receipt of their response)
and explained our position, they found our points convincing,
but saw no need to write in again as they had already indicated
support for the proposal.
We do not consider that our proposal does remove
any protection in regard to hours, because the present requirement
for two weeks notice is directed only at Local Authorities, there
is no mention in the legislation of giving any notice period to
staff. In theory despite giving two weeks notice to local authorities,
stores could tell staff of their intentions the day before. However
we are not aware of instances of staff being given unreasonable
notice of changes to hours at this at present (it is not a matter
raised with us in correspondence or in cases to employment tribunals).
We see no reason why this situation would change.
We consider it to be in the interests of stores to give customers
plenty of notice of their intentions to be open. If customers
do not know what hours stores are open, stores will simply lose
business. It is likely that customers would be annoyed and frustrated
by frequent changes in opening hours. It is also in the interests
of stores to ensure that their staff are available for work -
they are essential to the store opening and providing a good service.
We do not consider that stores will wish to change
their hours frequently as a result of the removal of notification
procedures (the need to write one letter at a cost of approximately
£12.50 is not a major disincentive to change hours frequently
now if they wished to do so), it is in our view simply an unnecessary
burden that they should have to do so.
The Sunday Trading Act 1994 provided comprehensive
protection (now consolidated into the Employment Rights Act 1996)
for shop workers in England and Wales who do not wish to work
on Sundays. All shop workers, except those employed to work solely
on Sundays, have the right to refuse to work on Sundays and to
be protected against dismissal or detriment (for instance, refusal
of promotion or training opportunities) for doing so.
If shop workers are willing to work on Sundays, their
hours - like other general terms and conditions of employment
- are a contractual matter for negotiation and agreement between
them (or their representatives) and their employers, as are any
subsequent variation in those hours. Even if shop workers have
entered into a contractual agreement, they can elect to change
this agreement subject to a 3 months notice period.
The proposed notification changes will not effect
the rights of Sunday shop workers which are now contained
in the Employment Act 1996.
Please let me know if you would find any further
14 November 2003