Opting Out of Sunday Working – A Guide to Work Rights

Over the past few years Sundays have changed from a day of rest, to a day when many businesses are open. This relaxation of the laws on Sunday working has improved access to leisure and shopping for many. However, many employees do not wish to work on this traditional day off. So is opting out of sunday working possible?

Many Workers Are Contracted to Work Sundays

In general, we now have to accept that working on a Sunday is becoming more common. It’s important to get confirmation on whether you’ll be expected to work on a Sunday before you begin any new job. Any employer has the right to ask you to work on a Sunday if that forms part of your employment contract.

Gone are the days when the odd Sunday shift allowed you to work the same hours for “double time”. Today, if you sign an Employment Contract which says that you have to work on a Sunday, your employer does not have to pay you any extra money above your usual rate of pay.

There is an exception to this in England and Wales, however.


Opting Out For Workers in Shops & Betting Shops

However, special rules apply to those who work in shops and betting shops.

Shop and betting shop workers in England and Wales have the right to refuse to work on a Sunday. They are protected against dismissal, selection for Redundancy or any other kind of detrimental treatment. For example, the refusal of training or promotion. These rights are protected under English and Welsh law in the Sunday Trading Act (1994).

To qualify to opt out of Sunday working you must be:

  • A shop worker who has been with the same employer since 25 August 1994 or earlier.
  • A betting worker who has been with the same employer since 2 January 1995 or earlier.
  • A Shop or betting worker who cannot be required to work Sundays under the terms of your contract.

You can give up this right only by giving a written, signed and dated opt-in notice to your employer. You must then agreewhat Sunday work you are willing to do.

All other shop and betting workers can opt out of Sunday working bygiving 3 months’ written notice. No reason needs to be given.


Rules for Employers

If you are an employer and you have any workers who may be required to work on Sunday, you must give them a written statement explaining their opt-out right. If you fail to do this within 2 months of their employment start date, they only need to give one month’s opt-out notice.

Shop and betting workers should note that even if they have decided to opt-in to work on a Sunday, they have the right to change their minds and opt-out.

The Sunday working rules apply irrespective of age and length of service. However, they don’t apply to those who just work on a Sunday.


Opting Out of Sunday Working Scotland

Similar rights were extended to shop and betting workers in Scotland on 6 April, 2004. In Scotland, however, automatically protected employees are only those whose contracts cannot require them to work on Sundays.

Those whose contracts require them to work on Sundays will have to opt-out. The workers need to serve a 3 month notice period if they are no longer willing to work on Sundays. This is regardless of whether or not they were employed in shop or betting work before or after 6 April 2004.


Religious Belief

Christians may prefer not to work on Sundays. The best approach, as recommended by the government, is to speak to the employer. If all goes well, the employer will take a reasonable view and adjust shifts.

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a member of staff because of his or her religion. In some instances, Christians may need to invoke this law. It may be wise to seek guidance from Citizens Advice or a Union before confronting an employer.


Extra Money for Sunday Working

The law does not oblige employers to pay more for Sunday working than they would on other days. The employer can choose whether to pay extra or not.

In some business areas, normal working hours follow a set Monday to Friday, or Monday to Saturday pattern. An employer may decide to pay time-and-a-half or double time for those who come in on Sundays. Some employers offer time off during the week for working on a Sunday.

Employees should check their contracts, and terms and conditions. If there is no mention of Sunday working, but they are happy to come in on a Sunday, they should speak to their employers about extra pay or holidays.

Further information on Sunday working rules and regulations can be found on the UK Gov website.

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