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Government discussion to extend Sunday Trading laws after Paralympics could lead to discrimination claims, employment lawyers warn

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The Government is understood to be discussing the possibility of lifting Sunday Trading regulations after the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Under legislation, shops in England and Wales of more than 280 square metres (3,000 square feet) can open for a maximum of six hours on a Sunday, and only between the hours of 10:00 and 18:00. But during the Olympics and Paralympic Games, which end on 9 September, shops are free to choose their own hours.

Nick Jew, employment partner at DLA Piper said: "There are some potential risks with abandoning Sunday hours, not least in relation to religious discrimination. Employers will have to tread carefully to ensure that they do not discriminate against an employee on religious grounds if the employee's religious beliefs prevent them from working on a Sunday.

"Shop workers also have additional protection. A shop worker who has opted out of Sunday working cannot be treated unfavourably for refusing to work on a Sunday, and it is automatically unfair to dismiss them if they refuse to do so. Further, a shop worker who decides that they no longer wish to work on a Sunday if it means additional hours, can still give notice to opt-out.

"There are also contractual issues to consider; unless there is sufficient flexibility in the contract, employers cannot require employees to work additional hours without their consent."??Nick is available for further commentary if you would like to discuss these points in more detail.