Chancellor George Osborne has revealed that he plans to give directly elected mayors and councils devolved powers to allow them to make the choice as to whether to bring in longer Sunday trading hours in their respective regions.
So, if retailers are told they can open for longer - what issues might they face? Here are our Top 10.
1. The obvious problem is localism. Multi-site retailers may want particular stores to be open on a Sunday but different local authorities may make different decisions. Therefore, where there are two stores close to each other but in different local authorities where the rules on Sunday trading are different it could create confusion and irritation amongst consumers. This makes the potential changes to Sunday trading laws rather ad hoc rather than consistent across the country.
2. A considerable number of licences, alcohol , late night refreshment, performance of music, plays, tables and chairs on highways etc. are restricted by hours or by the opening hours specified in the original application for a licence (which becomes a condition of the licence itself). That could result in the need to vary a licence to the longer permitted hours before being able to open. The devil will be in the detail.
3. Turnover rents is probably the most interesting area as landlords may try to force tenants to open for longer if it means a higher turnover and therefore a higher rental. How provisions are drafted will be crucially important.
4. Shop workers are protected by specific legislation to prevent them being penalised for refusing to work on Sundays.
5. What about supply arrangements? Will you have sufficient stock to support additional sales and are the deliveries timed to align with the new hours? Will these impact on energy consumption and waste removal plans? Would you need technical systems support hours to be extended as well to ensure in store systems function and are supported during store opening? Making changes to these may require amendment to supply chain contracts.
6. Employers will need to be mindful of working time legislation. Among other things, workers must have a 20 minute break every 6 hours of work, 11 hours' continuous rest every day and a weekly 24 hour rest period. Employers will also need to take into account the maximum working week limits.
7. There could be a concern about an increase in service charge if services need to be extended beyond the current standard opening hours (lighting, security, etc.). This will be particularly pertinent if the retailer concerned does not extend its hours but others in the same shopping centre do. How the service charge is drafted will inevitably govern this.
8. There could be planning restrictions not just restrictive covenants in a lease imposed by a landlord. Breach could lead to regulatory enforcement and as we see in licencing work there are plenty of residents associations particularly in central London and other large cities who are very well organised and generally don't want longer hours at all let alone on Sundays.
9. Any alteration of working hours is likely to require changing the terms of employment contracts. If any employee refuses to give their consent, imposing the change would risk a claim of constructive dismissal. Employers should check their contracts to see how much flexibility they have.
10. There are often restrictions on delivery times / rubbish collection in big cities to reduce noise to residents, longer hours could cause practical difficulties for traders.
If anyone would like further advice on any of the above or other issues arising from the change in Sunday Trading laws please contact Gary Assim, Head of Retail, at national Law firm Shoosmiths.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.