Christmas’ shopping : looking for longer opening hours?
Opening hours is a key issue for many employers, especially for retailers. Many companies in Europe are calling for more flexibility.
In France, new rules set by the Macron Law have just been enacted which move French law towards a more flexible system. These new provisions will certainly impact the retail sector and consumer products companies willing to offer longer opening hours.
Without undermining the principle of a weekly Sunday rest, the new law redefines the geographical areas where employers are allowed to organize employees’ weekly rest by shifts. These areas are ones which have been identified for their international prominence or which are characterized by an exceptional influx of foreign tourists.
Exceptions to dominical rest are now possible insofar as a shop situated within one of these areas is covered by a collective agreement providing for financial counterparts, hiring commitments or measures in favour of certain categories of people such as disabled people or aimed the work-life balance of employees. Only volunteers who have given their written agreement can work on Sunday.
No discriminatory or disciplinary actions shall be taken against employees who refuse to work on Sundays.
The Macron law also allows shops located within specific zones to extend opening hours until midnight. Each night work hour is paid twice the normal amount and the affected worker is entitled to an equivalent compensatory rest. As for Sunday work, late night work must be voluntary.
These new provisions bring the French system closer to foreign jurisdictions, which are already providing for extended opening hours.
The UK is a good example. In the UK, although there are some restrictions in certain areas of the UK preventing larger shops trading outside the hours of 10am and 6pm on a Sunday, the law in connection with employees working weekends is relatively flexible.
Generally, an employee can be required to work over the weekend including on a Sunday, if this is written into their contract of employment and does not impact on their entitlements under the Working Time Regulations 1998. Employees in the UK can ‘opt out’ of the 48 hour maximum working week.
There is a specific provision in certain areas of the UK that allows retail workers to opt out of working on a Sunday by giving three months’ notice to their employer. However, this provision only applies to retail workers and is used rarely.
In the UK employees cannot be dismissed or treated unfavourably for choosing not to work on Sundays, if this is connected to a discriminatory reason, which cannot be justified. For example, requiring a Sabbath-observing employee to work on Sundays could trigger a claim for discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. However, there have been several cases in the UK where employers have successfully justified their requirement for an employee to work on a Sunday.