Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Sunday Opening Hours

I really should set up a separate weblog for ranting, but anyway, here’s another thing that’s been getting on my nerves lately.
Near to where I live is Haqs, a supermarket that mainly caters for the local population which is pro-dominantly Asian. At the moment, it’s open from around 9am until 8pm every day, including Sundays. However, there’s now a big sign outside saying that as of the middle of February, it’ll only be open between 12pm and 6pm on Sundays. The sign cites the Sunday Trading Act of 1994 as the reason for the change.
As far as I can gather, the act says that large shops cannot open on Sundays without permission from the local authority, and generally any permission to open is restricted to 6 hours trading. Smaller shops can generally open when they like on Sundays – the local Jacksons is open 8am until midnight 7 days a week. I’m guessing that Haqs has been found to be too large to qualify as a small store and has therefore had to restrict its opening hours.
While I can understand this from a Christian point of view (keeping the Sabbath day holy and whatnot), the vast majority of people who work and shop there are not Christian. To them, Sunday has no special significance. Why then should they not be allowed to work or shop late on a day just because it has special meaning to the country’s dominant religion? If you want to leave the Sabbath day holy, then don’t go shopping on Sundays. But please, repsect those of us who don’t follow Christianity and give us freedom to do so.

15 Comments

  1. Hey, I was looking for some blogs from other countries and I found yours. It’s quite different than in my country 🙂 If you don’t mind, I will be vistiting your site sometimes 🙂

  2. Devil’s advocate time! Should Haqs have a policy of refusing to employ people of a particular faith because they might refuse to work longer Sunday shifts?

  3. Surely refusing to employ someone based upon their religion (or other beliefs) would be counted as discrimination/racism, and would therefore open up Haqs to some sort of legal action?

  4. That’s precisely the point I’m making, Steve. Things aren’t as simple as just allowing anyone to open their stores anytime they want, especially if it’s not a small, family-run shop.

  5. Great point David. Small shops are usually family run and don’t employ the general public. That maybe how Haqs has been classed as a “large shop” and therefore been forced the stricter trading rules.
    Although it’s a religious rule that the state has used, it’s a lot more of a tradition nowadays.

  6. What’s to say that they would discriminate and make any Christians that might work there work on Sundays?
    I know that the supermarket I used to work in had flexibilty about making people work Sundays, they had a choice whether to or not.
    The point is though, Haqs is staffed predominantly by non-Christians and as such, even if Christian staff did object to working Sundays, the other staff could cover it easily.

  7. I think Muppetette has it. They can’t refuse to employ someone based on their religious beliefs, and if that person wants to take a day off for accepted religious reasons then they should be permitted to do so. The onus is then on the store to find someone who can work the times that the other person cannot.
    Put it this way: I don’t think Haqs would have any problems getting staff to work Sundays. Tesco and the like all seem to manage it.

  8. We went bowling once. When we produced our student IDs for our discount we were told they weren’t doing it today, because it was EID, the Muslim celebration. This was a Tuesday, EID was on or started on the Friday. We eventually paid, but the manager walked passed to we complained. He said the price had gone up because of EID, and he said that they were doing it for THREE days. Well this was the fourth day.
    I made the point that if I rang up any other Hollywood bowl in the country, they would still offer the discount, and probably wouldn’t have a clue what EID was. It’s not recognised as a national holiday, so shouldn’t be treated (within commerce) differently to any other day.
    He agreed with us, and we got our discount.

  9. The Sunday trading laws exist primarily to protect the employees, by ensuring that there is at least some time when the employer cannot require them to work.
    Arguing that employers should be allowed to open whenever they like so long as they can find some members of staff willing to work those hours is, I feel, akin to being against a minimum wage. Should the employer be able to pay whatever they like as long as they can find people willing to work for that amount? I don’t think they should (although it took the UK long enough to bring that into force) and likewise I don’t think that the only reason a person can refuse to work on a certain day should be because of their faith.

  10. Related question: Why are Fish’n’Chip shops and Chinese Takeways closed on Sundays? That’s the one day of the week I want to be able to take things really easy, but I can’t even get a bag of chips…However, I can get frozen/microwavable chips from the (bigger then the chippy+the chinese put together) Jacksons store next door…

  11. In response to David, the way that the Supermarket I worked in operated was that you worked 5 days out of 7. Your 2 days off could be any two days of the week, but if you worked Sunday you got time and a half. There were sufficient staff around that should oyu find yourself scheduled to work Sunday, there’d be someone to swap with. I believe that you could swap shifts for any day and any reason, as long as you worked your allotted hours and there were enough staff on.
    I think that the employees most at risk of exploitation in these circumstances are those in small businesses, as I believe pretty much all of the major retailers all have similar policies.

  12. I think it does the country good to have a day when the opening of shops is severely curtailed. Sunday is as good a day as any, and it is the traditional day of rest in this country. The tradition arose because of a religion but it became part of the culture – even for those of us, like me, who profess no religion.

  13. Excellent posting, Neil. My own view is that religion is for individuals to practice, or not, in private or in their places of worship. I strongly feel that religion has no place whatsoever in public life (especially schools, but that’s a topic of its own). I really don’t support Sunday trading laws.
    Richard – why does it do the country good to have a day with limited shopping hours? I genuinely don’t see your argument.
    Even if there is a need for it, why prescribe a specific one? Wouldn’t it make more sense to allow shops to open fully for six days and close early on one day of the company’s choice? That’d be more respectful of the Jewish sabbath whilst still allowing christians to take Sunday off. Inclusiveness means considering (or ignoring 😉 ) all religions equally, without favouring any one.

  14. Um.
    Couldn’t this just be a case of something put in place to legally ensure that people actually have some time off every week rather than working all week long?
    Or am I missing something?

  15. That’s what I thought too, Ciaran.
    You really can’t legislate something along the lines of, “Well you can open your shop if you like, so long as your employees are accommodating enough that they can swap shifts with each other, and there’s no discrimination against them or their job is not in jepardy if they want a particular day off every week”. In practice those sort of arrangements can develop within a particular shop, but to specify it in law is, I imagine, a trickier thing to pin down in a way that is fair to all people everywhere.
    A policy which said that the shop could choose the day of the week to restrict their hours would cause confusion for the consumers, having to remember the early-closing day for each and every large shop in their area. Coupling this with the well-established tradition that many other areas of work do not require their employees to work on weekends makes Sunday a suitable choice, so that families and friends can spend time together, whilst still providing time for people to do their shopping. 🙂