Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Working

By Siobhan Harding

In the run up to Christmas when many people have taken on part-time work in the retail industry this article will look at the issue of Sunday working.

The law governing working on a Sunday is contained in The Shops (Sunday Trading & c.) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 which came into effect on 4 December 1997. For employment protection purposes a shop is defined as any premises where any retail trade or business is carried on. A shop worker is an employee who, under their contract of employment, is or may be required to do shop work. Shop work is work in or about a shop on a day on which the shop is open for the serving of customers.

Shopworkers who were employed before 4 December 1997 are known as protected shopworkers. This means they cannot be forced to work on Sundays and are protected against dismissal or detrimental treatment if they refuse to work on Sundays. There are some exceptions to this, for instance, it does not apply to shopworkers who are employed to work on Sundays only.

A shopworker who first starts a job on or after 4 December 1997 may be required to work on Sundays. However, unless they have been employed to work on Sundays only they may opt out of Sunday working by giving their employer three months notice of their objection to working on Sundays. This notice must be given to the employer in writing and must be signed and dated. If an employee gives such a notice and works the three month notice period they then have the right not to be dismissed or subjected to detrimental action for refusing to work on Sundays.

An employer must give any employee who may be required to work on Sundays under their contract of employment a written statement explaining the employee’s right to opt out of Sunday working. The employer must give this notice to the employee within two months of the employee beginning work for the employer.

If a protected shopworker, or a shopworker who has opted out of working on Sundays decides they want to start working on Sundays they may choose to do so by giving their employer a written notice, signed and dated, stating that they do not object to working on Sundays. The right to opt out continues so any shopworker who opts into working on Sundays will retain the right to opt out again.

The employment protection provisions of The Betting and Gaming (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 came into operation on 26 February 2004. The Order allows on-course Sunday betting and sets out the rights of on-course betting workers. On-course betting workers who work on Sundays are protected under similar rules as those for shopworkers. An on-course betting worker who was employed before 26 February 2004 is a protected employee and is therefore protected against dismissal or detrimental treatment if they refuse to work on Sundays. On-course betting workers first employed on or after this date can be required to work on Sundays but may opt out in the same way as shopworkers. The legislation also protects those who took on new contracts after 4 December 1997 and 26 February 2004 for on-course betting workers from being made to work on Sundays if it was not part of their contract.

There is nothing in law which states that employees must be paid more than their usual wages for working on Sundays. As long as the employee is paid the National Minimum Wage the employer does not have to pay any extra just because the employee is working on a Sunday.

Further information is available from your local CAB or on the Department for Employment and Learning website at delni.gov.uk. Guidance on Sunday working can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk if you are an employee or worker and www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk if you are an employer.

Siobhan Harding is an Information & Policy Officer with Citizens Advice

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