Are Sunday trading hours a thing of the past?

Before the Olympics the government announced that it would be temporarily extending restrictions on Sunday opening hours in an effort to cater for a predicted rise in consumerism. Previously larger stores over 280 square metres were only permitted to open for a maximum of 6 hours on a Sunday, however these limitations have been lifted for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic games. Although the government maintained that this was a temporary measure to provide for the busy games period, there is now considerable speculation that these new restrictions may stay permanently as the government debates the impact of these changes.

It seemed strange that my local Tesco store, that is already open almost 24/7 announced that during the Olympics it would be opening for longer on a Sunday and Monday, it seemed stranger considering it is 70 miles away from the Olympic park and 50 miles from any Olympic event. David Cameron made a special allowance for the Olympic period but wants further debate concerning permanently extending the change. No surprise to this coalition, many Tory backbenchers are strongly opposed to the proposed change. But why should Sundays be so special, especially in an ever changing dynamic British society. Advocates for longer hours argue that Sunday laws are outdated and are undermined by 24/7 internet retailers. Seeing as the UK is in such a dire economic situation, many argue that Sunday hours will provide new employment prospects for the unemployed and allow people to shop all weekend. Furthermore in an increasingly secular society, the religious status of Sundays is becoming outdated for the majority of those who do not attend church. Whilst the religious argument can be upheld, economic motivation seems misguided and over-estimated, especially considering shops are already open for 6 hours on a Sunday.

The economic benefit of these changes seems exaggerated, especially considering how businesses wouldn’t recruit new staff for Sunday shifts and consequently current employees would find themselves losing their day off on a Sunday. Sainsburys CEO Justin King has criticised the proposals as a bad move by the government, arguing that this would provide no solution to the current economic problems. It will more logically require people to work longer during the weekend so that one can visit the shops at 8pm. This is even more damaging when you consider the fact that at least 1 million parents currently work both weekend days already. Therefore these changes would produce quite damaging repercussions for those hard working families who already have to work at the weekends in the leisure and retail industries.

One could argue that if any institutions should be open longer, banks should be extending hours on the weekends, to allow those who work in the week to discuss and develop their finances.

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