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Sunday Working During The Olympics

Further to my previous blog regarding time off during the Olympics, a further change employers need to consider is the temporary suspension of restrictions, with regards to number of trading hours, on large shops for Sundays during the London Olympics and Paralympics from Sunday 22 July to Sunday 9 September 2012.

The temporary suspensions of restrictions may also affect the number of employees willing to work on Sundays, as the prospect of longer working hours may mean more employees choose to opt out of working on a Sunday. The current law is that shop workers who are, or may be, required to work on a Sunday, provided they are not employed to only work Sundays, may object to working on Sundays provided they give their employers a signed and dated written notice of their objection. If the employment began on or after 26 August 1994, shop workers have the right not to work on Sundays, unless they are employed to work on Sundays only. Shop workers who have the right to opt out must be given a written statement, which must be in a prescribed form, within 2 months of their becoming eligible to opt out, explaining the steps they must follow to serve an opt-out notice.

If a shop worker serves a notice of objection, the notice will take effect after 3 months. However, if the employer has failed to give the prescribed written statement, that period is reduced to a month. If a shop worker chooses to opt out, he or she is entitled not to be dismissed or subject to a detriment by reason of their refusal to work on a Sunday. A dismissal for this reason will be automatically unfair, and so there will be no minimum length of service required in order for a shop worker to bring such a claim.

The Government was concerned that, due to the proximity of the Olympics, shop workers would not have time to opt out before the Olympics began, taking into account that it would take 3 months for such an objection to take effect. The new temporary suspension laws will therefore reduce the notice period to the longer of (i) 2 months; or (ii) the period from the date notice is given until Saturday 21 July 2012. The deadline for giving notice in order to qualify for the reduced notice period will be 9 July 2012. Shop workers will also be able to temporarily opt out for the Olympics only, and where the notification to opt out stipulates as much, that worker will be treated as having given an opt in notice at the end of the temporary suspension. These amended laws will only be applicable to shop workers who are employed by shops which will be affected by the temporary suspension who do not work only on a Sunday and have not already opted out of working on Sundays.

Employers should take all possible steps to ensure they are not caught out by the amended laws and left with understaffed shops during a potentially busy period for retail and be prepared for the possibility that temporary Sunday staff may need to be recruited. Shop workers should also be aware of their right not to be unfairly dismissed or subjected to a detriment because of their objection to working Sundays. Further advice can be sought from Bethan Jones on 01952 211028 or at bethan.jones@lblaw.co.uk