There is no compelling reason for shops to stay open for longer on Sundays, says retail workers union GMB, as it warns distributors of an increasing workload.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is set to announce plans during today’s Budget speech, giving mayors and local councils the ability to allow larger stores open for more than six hours on a Sunday.
The Government believes opening shops for two extra hours in London would create almost 3,000 jobs and generate a further £200 million a year in revenues.
Osborne said: "Even two decades on from the introduction of the Sunday Trading Act, it is clear that that there is still a growing appetite for shopping on a Sunday.
"The rise of online shopping, which people can do round the clock, also means more retailers want to be able to compete by opening for longer at the weekend. But this won’t be right for every area, so I want to devolve the power to make this decision to mayors and local authorities."
However, the potential move is being opposed by GMB and the Association of Convenience Stores (ASC), with GMB saying that the change would also increase distributor staff workloads.
Labour’s Harriet Harman also opposed the plans.
Bob Crosby, lead GMB Organiser, commented: "GMB has not seen any compelling evidence to support the need for change to the 1994 Sunday Trading laws.
"If changes are pushed through there needs to be legal safeguards to give a genuine choice for people working in retail so that they can plan their work around their family and caring commitments.
"We have to face the fact that some employers will take advantage of the weak bargaining position of their staff and force them to work on Sunday.
"Changes to Sunday trading laws will impact on the supply chain. Behind all shops are workers in the distribution sector. They too will be affected by decision to extend opening hours."
ACS chief executive James Lowman added: "Giving local authorities the responsibility for setting Sunday trading hours will lead to inconsistency and confusion for businesses and shoppers.
"The short period of time that small stores are open while large stores are shut is a crucial advantage for convenience stores, most of which are owned by small businesses.
"Liberalising Sunday trading hours would make some small stores unviable."
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