John Bowers QC warns that there are serious flaws in the Government’s Sunday trading proposals
EVEN IF THE GOVERNMENT had won its bid to liberalise Sunday trading, it would have faced serious legal problems.
John Bowers QC, a leading authority on employment law and Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford, has warned that amendments to employee Sunday trading rights are “inordinately complex”.
The Government wanted to use the Enterprise Bill to devolve the issue of Sunday trading to local areas and had proposed changes to the rights of employees alongside this.
Mr Bowers warns that the Government’s plans offered no protection for people who object to working on Sundays during the opt-out notice period. There was also nothing to prevent employers from turning down a job applicant just because they will not, or are unlikely to, work on the Sabbath. He highlights that there are no safeguards for shop support staff, drivers or people who work in internet sales and telesales.
The QC also stresses that the Equality Act cannot be relied on to protect Christians and offers no help to non-religious people who just want to keep Sunday as a family day.
In October last year, Mr Bowers warned that liberalising Sunday trading in England and Wales could also affect the way discrimination law is applied in Scotland. Although Scotland is not party to Sunday trading legislation, Supreme Court rulings on employment apply there, meaning that Scottish employees would also be affected.
In a previous legal opinion Mr Bowers said: “More Christians will be forced by their employers to choose between their faith and their job”.
MPs debated the plans at the Report Stage on 8 March.