New powers to devolve Sunday trading laws to local authorities will allow councils to “zone” any relaxation so they will be able to prioritise high streets and city centres. This will mean councils can help drive footfall to struggling high streets by allowing them to open longer.
This is part of a package of measures on Sunday trading that will be brought forward in the Enterprise Bill.
The measures also include greater freedoms for shop workers in England, Scotland and Wales to “opt-out” of working Sundays if they choose to, for example because they object on religious grounds or for family reasons.
Shop workers will now be able to give just 1 month’s notice to large shops that they no longer want to work Sundays, down from the previous 3 months, and will have a new right to opt-out of working additional hours. The government will also strengthen the duty on employers to notify employees of their rights about working on Sundays.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said, “We are a one nation government and we want to see the benefits of economic growth being felt in every corner of the country. These new powers are about giving local areas the choice to extend Sunday trading hours to meet the needs of their local businesses and communities.
“It is local people who will make the decision. Extending Sunday trading hours has the potential to help businesses and high streets across the UK better compete as our shopping habits change.
“The rights of shop workers are key to making these changes work in everyone’s interests. We are protecting those who do not wish to work Sundays, and those who do not want to work more than their normal Sunday working hours.”
The rise of online shopping has changed buying habits considerably, giving us the freedom to buy what we want, when we want. Online businesses have been able to adapt and thrive in this new world, accounting for 12.8% of all retail spending in December 2015, up from just 2.4% in 2006.
However, the rules on Sunday trading for our high street stores and bigger outlets have not changed for over 20 years, meaning they cannot compete with this new online competition.
Devolving Sunday trading powers to local authorities in England and Wales could benefit British businesses. The government expects local councils to balance the economic needs of their area, while being sympathetic to the impact it may have in the community.
The powers will be devolved to unitary and district councils in England, county and county borough councils in Wales, and also to the Mayor of London. It is the intention that the power will be devolved to the Mayor of Greater Manchester when elected. Sunday trading rules are devolved to Scotland and Sunday opening is unrestricted in Scotland.
The Enterprise Bill will strengthen the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to do business, as part of the government’s plan to boost productivity and extend opportunity. It will create a Small Business Commissioner to help small firms deal with issues such as late payment and bring regulators into scope of the £10 billion cutting red tape target.
Another new measure added to the Bill will help establish an Institute for Apprenticeships – an independent, employer-led body that will regulate quality and make sure apprenticeships meet the needs of business.