Rules about Sunday working depends on the individual wording of an employee’s contract or written statements of terms and conditions. Employees should check whether they have to work on Sundays, or if they may have to work on Sundays if asked by their employer.
If the contract does not say that you are required to work on Sundays, you can only be required to work on a Sunday through a change in your employment contract. Sunday working should ideally be agreed between the employee and employer at the earliest opportunity. All employees have the right not to be discriminated against because of their religion or belief, or lack of any religion or belief, so if having to work on a Sunday would be against your religious beliefs, you should speak to your employer to attempt to find a suitable alternative.
Employees who work in shops or betting offices have specific protection when it comes to Sunday working. A shop worker is an employee who, under the terms of their employment contract, is or may be required to do shop work, that is, in or about a shop on a day in which the shop is open to serve customers. The rules governing Sunday working are contained in the Shops (Sunday Trading & c) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, and the rules governing betting workers are provided for by the Betting and Gaming (Northern Ireland) Order 2004.
Shop and betting office employees have the right to refuse to work on Sundays and are protected against dismissal, selection for redundancy or other detrimental treatment if they opt-out of Sunday working. To opt-out, they must give their employer a written, signed and dated notice, giving at least three month notice that they do not wish to work on Sundays.
If you opt-in to Sunday working, you can chose to opt-out at a later stage, provided that you give your employer the requisite notice. Employers are not required to offer you extra work on other days instead of Sundays if you chose to opt-out, so you may lose wages. Speak to your employer to determine if there are any alternatives, for example, if you work shifts, shift patters could be swapped or re-arranged to ensure that you do not lose hours of work, and subsequently, pay.
Employers in turn must give shop or betting employees a written statement explaining their opt-out rights. If the employer fails to do this, within two months of the employment start date, employees are only required to give one months opt-out notice.
Some employers offer incentives to encourage Sunday working, for example, paying employees time and a half or double time. There is however no statutory right to extra pay and this will be for the employer to decide.
For more information, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Further guidance can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk or by contacting the Labour Relations Agency on 02809032 1442.
Sian Fisher is an Information Officer with Citizens Advice.