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Sunday Working Rights

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 16 Nov 2021 | comments*Discuss
Sunday Working Contracts Shops Betting

Various businesses are open on Sundays. The obvious examples are shops, transport, restaurants and leisure facilities. But it doesn't matter what line of work people are in. These days, there's a strong possibility an employer may ask for Sunday working.


A contract of employment may include a clause obliging an employee to work on Sundays. This obligation may be a regular commitment or an occasional request. Either way, an employee with such a contract must be ready to work on Sundays.

A written statement of terms and conditions may contain similar wording to a contract. Any employee unsure about Sunday working should read his or her contract or terms and conditions.

An employee with a contract that fails to mention Sunday working does not have to work on Sundays. An employer who wants such an employee to work on Sundays must change the contract.

The employer and the employee must agree to the contract change. An employee is not obliged to accept a change that adds Sunday working to the contract terms.

When a contract does not include Sunday working, any attempt by an employer to make an employee work on Sundays is a breach of contract.

Retail Workers and Those in the Betting Industry

Special Sunday rules apply to people who work in shops or in the betting industry. The contracts may say that employees must work on Sundays, but employees have a right to opt out. Employers must inform staff about this right within two months of taking them on.

Anyone who wants to take the Sunday opt-out must put a request in writing. The employer has a right to three months' written notice.

Employers do not have to offer alternative work to those who opt out of Sunday working. An opt-out does not affect the security of a job, however. The law does not allow employers to sack shop and betting industry workers who use the Sunday opt-out rule.

Long-Term Shop and Betting Industry Workers

Other Sunday rules apply to long-term shop and betting industry workers. Long-term shop workers are those who've worked since 25 August 1994 for the same employer. Long-term betting industry workers are those who've worked since 2 January 1995 for the same employer.

A long-term employee simply has to tell an employer he or she doesn't want to work on Sundays. There's no need to give three months' written notice. This protection is for workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland only.

Long-term workers can choose to come in on Sundays, if they wish. They must give employers written notice. Employees should agree what Sundays they are prepared to work, what hours they will do, and what work they will perform.

A long-term worker who opts to work on Sundays can opt out in the future. Any employee who wants to stop Sunday working in these circumstances must give the employer an agreed amount of notice.

Religious Belief

Christians may prefer not to work on Sundays. The best approach, as recommended by the government, is to speak to the employer. If all goes well, the employer will take a reasonable view and adjust shifts.

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a member of staff because of his or her religion. In some instances, Christians may need to invoke this law. It may be wise to seek guidance from Citizens Advice or a Union before confronting an employer.

Extra Money for Sunday Working

The law does not oblige employers to pay more for Sunday working than they would on other days. The employer can choose whether to pay extra or not.

In some business areas, normal working hours follow a set Monday to Friday, or Monday to Saturday pattern. An employer may decide to pay time-and-a-half or double time for those who come in on Sundays. Some employers offer time off during the week for working on a Sunday.

Employees should check their contracts, and terms and conditions. If there is no mention of Sunday working, but they are happy to come in on a Sunday, they should speak to their employers about extra pay or holidays.

Difficulties With Sunday Working

People's circumstances change. Someone who regularly works on Sunday may wish to stop. Shop and betting industry workers have the chance to opt out. Other workers should speak to their employers to see if it's possible to come to an arrangement. Unions, Citizens Advice Bureaux and Community Legal Advice may be able to give help if a problem arises.

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Hi hav worked for sainsburys 41yrs & they wont me work every sunday I hav read the gov/ sunday& it states if you start be for 1994 which I started 1980 they can not make me is this correct
Phil - 16-Nov-21 @ 5:06 PM
Do I have to work Easter Sunday as Ocado want me to
Aud - 5-Apr-20 @ 6:11 PM
I work Sunday to Thursday. My question is other member of staff that work Monday to Friday will have 4 days of work at Easter and staff that works Sunday to Thursday will have to work on Sunday as well. So Sunday to thursday shift will work 5 days and Monday to Friday only 4 days.My question is good friday will never fall on a Sunday so Sunday to Thursday shift will be working 1 day extra every year. Is there anyway I can challenge this. Thanks
Rmunir - 11-Mar-20 @ 1:29 PM
i got asked by my employer to work a Sunday, I politely apologised that I couldn’t because I have plans. He has then since sacked me cause I can’t work the Sunday. I’m self employed. Is this right or is there a route I can go down?
Sambo - 8-Sep-19 @ 5:30 PM
Hello, When Sunday trading was made legal many years ago you had the right to opt out of working Sunday but now my employer Wilco has told me I have to now work Sunday can they make me,I only work 15 hours a week rota over the six days monday to Saturday .They have implied that if I don’t work Sunday they will cut my hours to employ someone to cover the Sunday,can they do this?
Sharon - 14-Aug-19 @ 6:47 PM
No - 3-Aug-19 @ 7:52 AM
hello I have asked my employer if i can have my sundays off so i can go to church and she wont grant it unless i have proof that i go to church. What should i do? im a catholic.
i19 - 4-Apr-19 @ 10:15 PM
I work on the railway, I am on a 4 week roster which contains a 12hour sunday day turn & a 12 hour sunday night turn, we are paid extra for working a sunday, we cannot take holiday and still receive any payment for a sunday, we earn no pension money on a sunday or hours towards holiday time, if i was to phone in sick I would not be paid. I am told I can have a sunday off AS LONG as work can cover it, if they cannot I MUST work, is this correct ???
Jackpot - 26-Mar-19 @ 7:56 AM
Hi. I am aware that an employer can deduct hours from you if you opt out of sunday working. Does this deduction have to be at the time you request to opt out or can it be, for instance, 20 years later. My employer is trying to bully those of us that have opted out to work some Sunday's because they cannot cover the shifts. I have not worked a Sunday since my opt out 20 years ago! Surely they cannot suddenly decide to reduce my hours as a penalty because it suits them to as I still refuse to work Sundays...?
Sleepflower - 26-Feb-19 @ 10:46 PM
My son works full time which includes Sundays but recently he has been asked to start early between 7am - 8am but there is no public transport and the earliest he can get in is 9am. Prior to that he would have to get a taxi costing £20 and he is on the minimum wage.Is this against the law expecting him to pay for a taxi.
trigpoint - 6-Jan-19 @ 7:13 AM
Gmax2uk- Your Question:
Hi, I work for Ocado and wanted to know if I can opt out of Sunday working as I’m a Christian!!

Our Response:
The link here will explain all you need to know.
WorkingRights - 17-Sep-18 @ 2:35 PM
Hi, I work for Ocado and wanted to know if I can opt out of Sunday working as I’m a Christian!!
Gmax2uk - 16-Sep-18 @ 11:45 AM
I have been sent a Rota to work from 10 till 7pm next Sunday. We usually finish at 5 but they want us to stay behind and call customers when the store closes. Do we have to stay or can we opt out?
Pedro - 17-Feb-18 @ 8:52 PM
I work in a call centre who have decided to open on a Sunday , I work Monday to sat Thursday off . Can they make me work a Sunday ?
Sami - 7-Feb-18 @ 8:22 AM
Hi i work in retail and for the last 4 years ive worked 1 in 4 sundays!! I get paid 4 weekly and when i get paid thats the sunday i work so its easy to work out. But this year xmas eve was my sunday on but company gave me it off and are trying to bring me in new years eve which isnt my sunday on?? Do i have to do it as surely theyr changing my work pattern and i only found out 2 weeks ago!!
killie73 - 24-Dec-17 @ 8:04 AM
Hi I work in a cafe and we are open Monday to Saturday but as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve is on a Sunday this year my boss has decided to open. Do I have to work on them days when I don’t normal work them?
Jill - 25-Oct-17 @ 6:25 AM
I work in retail middle management and opted out of sunday working over 2 years ago due to beliefs and to give more support to my wife caring for my autistic son, and drum in some kind of routine for us all. Anyway, this year, with both christmas eve and new years eve falling on a sunday, I have been asked by a superior which one I WILL be working, not can I work one of them.I responded that I wont be working either due to the fact that it would break my sunday opt out agreement, to which I got the response 'no it wont, it doesnt apply at christmas'. Is this true? Im concearned that firstly if I do work one of them, they can make me work more in the future,and secondly if I work one of them my opt out will become void. So where do I stand please?
Jay - 15-Oct-17 @ 2:33 PM
I work in retail and opted out of Sunday's a year ago. BuT am I allowed to work overtime on a Sunday even though I opted out ???
Home - 4-Aug-16 @ 9:08 PM
It seems very strange the type of action your daughters employee had taken would generally be due to some sort of disciplinary action . I would contact Acas for advice on the matter . Sadly some employers have some strange ways of dealing with colleagues best of luck
Mike m - 2-Jun-16 @ 9:07 PM
sad123 - Your Question:
Seeking advice. I work in retail and have just given 3 months notice to opt out of Sundays last Sunday shift 29th May. My employees have told me I have to lose my Sunday hours (6) they wont give me hours anywhere within the business on any other department. (A large retail store of 400 employees) I have been told that my contract will change as of this week. The company stopped paying time and a half on a Sunday, but my reasons for opting out is for family reasons, having three children who need me to be at home on a Sunday as my husband works weekends. Can they do this? Advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

Our Response:
You don't say what your contract is. If it is zero hours, then your employer has the choice of what hours he/she can give you and while this informal contract works well for some, for others it can lead to uncertainty, especially for those workers who wish to be certain of their hours. If your contract is fixed hours, then your employer is under no obligation to give you overtime, if these are the hours you agreed to in your contract. In this case you may wish to give ACAS a call in order to see what your options are with regards to the type of contract you have.
WorkingRights - 1-Jun-16 @ 11:35 AM
Seeking advice.I work in retail and have just given 3 months notice to opt out of Sundays last Sunday shift 29th May.My employees have told me I have to lose my Sunday hours (6) they wont give me hours anywhere within the business on any other department.(A large retail store of 400 employees)I have been told that my contract will change as of this week. The company stopped paying time and a half on a Sunday, but my reasons for opting out is for family reasons, having three children who need me to be at home on a Sunday as my husband works weekends.Can they do this?Advice would be greatly appreciated.Many thanks.
sad123 - 31-May-16 @ 2:09 PM
Hello can anyone give me advice my daughter whos 21 has been working for spec savers finished her probation and was given her new contract lucy worked very hard always arrived on time clean and smart had brilliant customer services skills sold over £80.000 worth of eye wear the in 5 months had a great relationship with all her colleagues and enjoyed her job so much she did an excess course at Canterbury uni studying every night whilst working full time she gained 92 % pass and was accepted to start a optom dispenser course in sept and which her boss offerd to fund for the 3 years then last week her boss ask her to go to the stock room where she was told to leave the shop as she was no longer required to work there any more she ask why what had she done wrong and was told by her boss she didn't have to give her a reason she would be paid a months notice but would not be required to work her notice with that she was escorted from the premises asked to give her jacket scarf name badge keys etc in front of staff and customers at 5pm she was so humiliated and shocked as to why she was put onto garden leave shes has written a letter hoping for an answers but the reply was your contact states we are within our rights
Suey - 12-Jul-15 @ 9:05 PM
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