The Sunday Trading (Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Act 2012 could be a mixed blessing for those retailers affected. These employers must consider their and their employees’ legal position in order to avoid the possibilities of industrial or individual action.
A temporary change of working hours by employers just for the Olympics may of course be acceptable, and many employers may be able to obtain sufficient employee support by offering extra hours and overtime pay. The difficulties will come where overtime is not on offer and an employer is seeking to force through a change during those eight weeks.
Employers are best advised to look into whether the employment contracts provide for the employer to require employees to work additional hours, and then must ask themselves what steps to take if no such obligation exists. It may be the employee can simply refuse to work the additional hours.
Additionally, the changes may exceed the weekly working time limit of 48 hours, or maybe the employee has opted out of that restriction. Employers also need to be aware of the need for an 11-hour daily rest break and a 24-hour weekly rest break. Employees also have a right to refuse to work on Sundays if appropriate notice is given, and employers need to think about how to handle such situations.
Finally, employers must ensure they justify having employees work on Sundays because of the potential for discrimination against Christian and other religious groups.
Published on 04/05/2012