In case you’re overcome with excitement at the prospect of the Olympic torch appearing on a High Street near you, here’s a quick reminder of the employment law impact of the suspension of the usual Sunday Trading laws from 22 July to 9 September.
Shop workers can opt out of Sunday working in larger shops by giving three months’ notice, provided they are not employed just to work on Sundays. To give these workers a chance to opt out in time to avoid longer Sunday working hours for the Olympic period, this notice period has been shortened to two months or the interval between the date notice is given and the day before the suspension starts, if that is longer. If workers want their opt-out to last only for the period of longer opening hours, they should specify this in their notice, otherwise it will continue indefinitely until they give notice to opt back in. The last date on which a shortened notice can be given is 9 July 2012.
In a separate development concerning Sunday trading an attempt by Boots to cut Sunday pay for some its staff has been ruled unlawful. Last year the retailer reduced Sunday rates from double time to time and a half for employees whose employment commenced before October 2000, to bring them into line with other employees who commenced after October 2000 but before May 2009 (after which new employees are employed at a single hourly rate).
The staff concerned claimed that Boots had made unlawful deductions from wages but Boots contended that the higher rates of pay were "purely discretionary" so that they could impose the contractual amendment. An employment tribunal in Nottingham disagreed with Boots and the retailer is now facing compensation claims from all affected employees. The decision provides a good example of the rigidity of the law concerning unauthorised deductions from wages and that, even if it appears that there are sound business reasons, they will not be sufficient for the imposition of such a change.