Posts Tagged ‘Sunday working’

Sundays may no longer hold the special significance that they once held but there are still a number of things that employers need to bear in mind when employing staff to work on Sundays. Here we look at some of the more common questions arising out of Sunday working.

Can I force my staff to work on Sundays?

Employees will be obliged to work on Sundays if their contract of employment or written statement of terms and conditions say that they must work on Sundays or would have to work on Sundays if they are asked to.

In the absence of any contractual obligation, employees cannot be forced to work on a Sunday unless their contract is varied. However, any variation would require the employee’s consent.

However, whatever your arrangements, you must ensure that you observe the Working Time Regulations 1998 for workers’ statutory rest periods.

Do I have to pay my staff an enhanced rate of pay for working on a Sunday?

Employees who work on Sundays do not have an automatic right to receive an enhanced rate of pay. However, if their contract of employment provides for a higher rate to be paid for Sunday work then an employer is obliged to pay that rate.

Do I have to take into account the religious beliefs of my Christian workforce?

Christian staff may have strong feelings about working on Sundays. All employees and workers (including temporary agency workers, freelance workers and consultants) have the right not to be discriminated against, harassed or victimised because of their religion or belief.

For this reason employers should try to accommodate any requests by Christian staff not to work on Sundays, for example by changing their shift patterns. Employers should also be careful not to put pressure on Christian staff to work on Sundays and should ensure that Christian staff who refuse to work on Sundays are not placed at a disadvantage, for example, when it comes to promotions or decisions relating to redundancy. The right not to be discriminated against on grounds of religion or belief also protects job applicants from receiving less favourable treatment.

In some circumstances an employer may be able to justify discrimination as long as there are objective grounds. For example, an employer may be justified in discriminating against Christians if Sunday working is essential to a role, although employers should also bear in mind that not all Christians will object to Sunday working and, therefore, a blanket ban on Christian applicants is likely to be viewed as being discriminatory.

What about shop and betting workers?

There are special rules relating to Sunday working for shop and betting workers. Most shop and betting workers have the option not to work on Sundays. ‘Protected’ shop and betting workers, however, have additional protection.

A ‘protected’ worker is one who:

has been continuously employed since 25 August 1994 as a shop worker or since 2 January 1995 as a betting worker and when his employment commenced was not required to work only on Sundays; or
is not required, under his contract of employment, to work on Sundays; and
has not consented (by signing an ‘opting-in notice’) to working on a Sunday.

Employees in this category who would otherwise be required, by their contracts of employment, to work on Sundays can opt-out of Sunday working as long as they are not employed solely to work on Sundays. An employee can opt-out by providing his employer with a signed ‘opting-out notice’ and this can be done at any time. An employee who has given an ‘opting-out’ notice is treated as having opted-out 3 months after the notice was given.

Employees who are ‘protected’ and those who have opted-out cannot be made to work on Sundays. They have the right not to be discriminated against if they refuse to work on Sundays and if they are dismissed or selected for redundancy for refusing to work on Sundays their dismissal is treated as being automatically unfair.

Employers who employ shop or betting staff to work on Sundays must, within 2 months of the commencement of the employment, provide the employee with an ‘explanatory statement’ setting out their rights in relation to Sunday working including their right to opt out, unless the employee has already given an ‘opting-out notice’.

The wording which is required for the ‘explanatory statement’ is set out in S.42 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. If an employer fails to provide a valid ‘explanatory statement’ and the worker subsequently gives an ‘opting-out notice’ the employee will be treated as having opted out 1 month after the notice was given rather than 3 months after it was given.

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