The government has decided to suspend the Sunday trading laws over the Olympic period. Should they go the whole hog and repeal the law for good?
Limited Sunday trading was introduced to appease two vocal groups who disliked the idea of shops open on Sunday. The Christian Churches said they wanted to keep Sunday special as the Lord’s day. The Retail unions said they wanted staff to all have Sundays off. How valid are these objections today?
There is nothing stopping Christians maintaining Sunday as a special day, as the Church going day of the week. Retail staff who are also Christians can ask to work shifts or on days that do not clash with Sundays. No-one has to go shopping on Sunday if they disagree with it. There are now so many shops open on Sundays that it is no longer possible to claim that Sundays are special, or protected from the claims of Mammon
The Unions would have a point if staff had to work seven days a week instead of five. The restrictions on Sunday trading apply now to larger shops, not to the many small stores where there may already be limited flexibility over hours of work and days of employment. If the larger shops were allowed to trade for longer on Sundays they would have to come up with sensible packages of hours and shifts to atract a range of potential emplyees. They should not have to force Christians to work Sundays against their will, and would soon get a bad reputation as an employer if they tried to. Some employees might like to work on a Sunday and have a different week-day off instead, as that might work better with their other commitments.
I think the government should change the law not just for a few weeks this summer, but for the longer future. Does it make sense to restrict the hours of the most successful retailers? Does it help the Higgh Street to close parts of it down on Sundays? Can’t we now find an answer to the objections?