Family life in Scotland could be harmed by plans to allow extended Sunday trading in England and Wales, a senior barrister has warned.
The Government wants to use the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill to devolve the issue of Sunday trading to local authorities.
But John Bowers QC, a deputy High Court judge and employment law specialist, warned of the “unintended consequences” for Scotland if the new legislation comes in.
He used the example of the Supreme Court throwing out a challenge from an employee in England who does not want to work on a Sunday.
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 his legal opinion, commissioned by The Christian Institute, Mr Bowers said: “More Christians will be forced by their employers to choose between their faith and their job — not just retail workers, but those in security, cleaning, distribution and transport.”
Scotland will not escape the harmful effects of Westminster’s plan to turn Sundays into a free-for-allColin HartThe Christian Institute
He raised concerns that non-religious employees who want to use personal or family reasons not to work on a Sunday are unlikely to be protected by the Equality Act.
Even for religious people, cases using the Equality Act are “difficult and costly to pursue”.
He said that if longer Sunday trading hours become the norm, it will be “even more difficult for employees to succeed, particularly as fewer non-religious staff will want to work if the pay premium disappears, as is likely.”
The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart said the opinion is “a powerful warning that Scotland will not escape the harmful effects of Westminster’s plan to turn Sundays into a free-for-all”.
Harming family life
“Ultimately the Supreme Court in London will decide whether Scottish workers will get the employment protections they need.
“Big UK-wide companies could pressurise their staff in England, Scotland or Wales to work on Sundays.
“There is no doubt that this will lead to more pressure on people to work on Sundays, harming family life and further interfering with Sunday as a day of rest”, Mr Hart added.
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is set to be debated in the House of Commons later this month.
Mike Coupe, the Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, has argued that there is no demand from customers or employees for the rules to change.