Would relaxing Sunday trading laws help shops or just cause added stress for staff?

PUBLISHED: 16:30 08 June 2020

Should Sunday trading laws be suspended for larger shops in Ipswich town centre?  Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Should Sunday trading laws be suspended for larger shops in Ipswich town centre? Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Charlotte Bond

Should Sunday trading laws be relaxed to help shops rebuild trade – or will it just cause problems for shop workers?

Have your say on this issue in our poll, as more Suffolk shops prepare to reopen on June 15.

It has been reported that the government plans to suspend Sunday trading laws for a year to try and stimulate the economy amid the coronavirus crisis, meaning larger supermarkets could open for more than six hours on Sundays.

The move was today welcomed by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, but Ipswich Central was “cautious” about the idea, while shopworkers’ unions strongly oppose it.

Suffolk Chamber spokesman Paul Simon said: “As many Suffolk businesses are just beginning to implement their return-to-work plans, it is vital that they must be given every reasonable possible opportunity to start to generate sales again.

Ipswich town centre will soon see more shops reopening, from June 15  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDIpswich town centre will soon see more shops reopening, from June 15 Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

“If there are rules that can be pragmatically relaxed to give more companies a fighting chance to trade their way through this crisis without compromising the safety of staff and customers, ministers should do everything in their power to make it happen.

“Suffolk Chamber would support, therefore, a relaxation in Sunday trading laws for a limited period of time during the current recovery phase.”

However, Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, said: “I am cautious about this idea. My view is, if the current restrictions are lifted, then the most important thing is that they must be lifted for all businesses, not just large out-of-town stores, because that would be highly detrimental to town centres.”

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He added: “We will want to see the fine detail. If businesses have the increased costs of more staffing and utilities, but then the same amount of business comes in, then they will be reluctant to take on the extra cost.

“I am not totally convinced that there is a groundswell of opinion in favour of this.”

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers), said: “The last thing the retail industry needs is longer trading hours. There is no economic case for this and it will put extra pressure on the retail workers who have worked so hard throughout this crisis.

“Our members in retail are working long hours, in difficult circumstances and under a great deal of pressure, they need a break. It isn’t too much to ask for a shorter day on Sundays.

Paul Clement of Ipswich Central Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPaul Clement of Ipswich Central Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“Deregulating trading hours will put more pressure on shopworkers to work longer and cause further problems with finding childcare.”

He has written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma asking him not to change Sunday trading hours.

Unite national officer Bev Clarkson said that retail workers are “exhausted and deserve to spend time with their families”.

She said: “The Government must understand that many retail workers have to work around childcare and by extending Sunday opening hours it will create additional stress and make it impossible for many workers to juggle work and their caring duties.”

The Sunday Trading Act of 1994 currently allows large stores to open for no more than six consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm.

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