Sunday Working

Jan 26, 2012

More and more employers are requiring more and more flexibility from their workforce including the ability to request that there is work done on Sundays.

Retail outlets and a variety of recreation and leisure businesses are common examples where a regular requirement may exist. All employers should be aware of the legal implications of attempting to force employees to work where there is a reluctance or refusal to do so on the part of the employee.

As always in such circumstances, the first consideration is to examine whether the employee’s contract of employment or written statement of terms and conditions addresses the issue. If the contract is silent on the issue, or if it is ambiguous in its wording or mutual obligation, an agreed change to the provisions of the contract may be unavoidable.

The contractual terms in relation to Sunday working should confirm in writing

  • The actual frequency or potential likelihood for Sunday working
  • The actual or likely hours of work on Sundays
  • Any period of notice of such a requirement that will be given to employees
  • Any premium payments that will be made for work done on a Sunday (there is no statutory right that requires employers to provide any extra payment for Sunday working)
  • Any extra provision for overtime working beyond the normal hours of work on Sundays and any additional premium payments that will be made.
  • Rules on how any refusal to work will be handled should also be incorporated. Employers will normally apply their existing disciplinary procedures to any such refusal which, if the contract is properly drafted, will normally constitute a breach of contract by the employee.
  • Employers should also be careful not to inadvertently guarantee Sunday working where this is not their intention.

Shop and betting workers

Employees who work in a shop or in the betting industry (either at a betting shop open to the public or a bookmaker at a sports venue) have special rights. They can opt out of having to work on Sunday even if their contract says that they have to work. Employer must inform their employees about this right within two months of the commencement of employment. However, the rights do not apply to those staff employed to work on Sundays only.

Employees with this statutory right can opt out of Sunday work by writing to their employer and giving them three months' written notice of their wish to cease working on Sundays. Employers are not however required to offer extra work on other days instead and employees will therefore lose the wages for Sunday working if they opt out and no other work on other days is available.

As in many other areas of the law, employees can ask an Employment Tribunal to examine unfair treatment in this area. Special and careful consideration should however be given to those employees who express a religious belief in relation to Sunday working and all employees have the right not to be discriminated against for wishing to exercise such a belief.

If you are contemplating the introduction of Sunday working or are wishing to amend or scrap your existing arrangements, please contact us