Law guide: Workplace

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Sunday work

Sunday work

The rights set out in this section apply to workers (individuals contracted to provide work or services on a full-time, part-time or fixed-term basis). This includes employees, but not self-employed staff. For more information, see Employees, workers and the self-employed.

All kinds of businesses operate on Sundays. Shops and leisure businesses are obvious examples, but wherever you work, you might be asked to work on Sundays. It is important to know your rights when it comes to Sunday work.

Can you be made to work on Sundays?

You should check either your contract of employment or written statement of terms and conditions to see if you must work on Sundays or would have to if you were asked. If it says so, you'll have to work on Sundays. If it doesn't, then the only way of making you work on that day is by a change to your contract. This is something that must normally be agreed by both you and your employer; otherwise making you work on Sundays would amount to a breach of contract.

There are special rules for shop and betting workers - see below.

Working on Sundays if you're a Christian

If you're a practising Christian you may have strong feelings about working on a Sunday. Everyone has the right not to be discriminated against because of their religion or belief (or because they have no religion or belief).

Speak to your employer and explain how important it is to you to have Sundays off to practise your religion. Employers will usually try to accommodate such requests (e.g. by changing a shift pattern).

Should you get more money for working on Sundays?

It's a matter for you and your employer as to whether you're paid more for working on a Sunday. There are no statutory rights in this area, so it depends on your contract.

Many businesses choose to reward employees who work outside normal working hours. Some pay time-and-a-half or double time, while others give extra time off.

These rights don't apply if you're employed to work on Sundays only.

How to opt out of Sunday work

You can opt out by writing to your employer and giving them three months' written notice that you want to stop working on Sundays.

If you decide to take the opt-out, your employer doesn't have to offer you extra work on other days instead. You are likely to lose the wages you used to earn by working on Sundays.

Don't be worried about how opting out of Sunday working will affect your job security. Your employer is not allowed to treat you unfavourably (for example, deny you overtime or promotion) and you can't be dismissed fairly for refusing to work on Sundays under this right. An employment tribunal (industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland) can award compensation if your employer breaks the rules.

Shop workers and betting workers

If you 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) you have special rights. You can opt out of having to work on Sunday even if your contract says you have to. Your employer has to tell you about this right within two months of hiring you.

This extra protection does not apply in Scotland or in Northern Ireland if you're employed to work on Sundays only.

If you're happy to work Sundays, you can give your employer a written 'opting-in' notice that says you're prepared to work on Sundays. You must then agree exactly what work on Sundays, or on a particular Sunday, you're willing to do.

Any shop or betting worker who opts in to Sunday working, has the right to opt out again at a later date (as long as they give the required notice).

What to do if you have problems

If you're worried about being asked to work on Sundays, you should talk informally to your employer first. If you are a shop or betting worker, think about whether to submit an opt-out.

If you're a shop or betting worker and feel you've been badly treated because you've opted out of Sunday work, you should follow the steps set out in our 'Workplace disputes' section.

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