Sunday work

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.

 Working 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, however, special rules for shop and betting workers.

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 practice your religion.

Employers will usually try to accommodate such requests by changing a shift pattern for example.

Getting paid more 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.

Special rights for shop workers and betting industry

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.

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

How to opt out of Sunday work

You 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 industrial tribunal can award compensation if your employer breaks the rules.

Long-standing shop and betting workers

If you're a long-standing shop or betting worker, you're already protected. If you're a shop worker, this applies if you've been working for the same employer since 4 December 1997. If you're a betting worker, the date is 26 February 2004.

If you fall into either of these categories you only have to tell your employer that you don't work on a Sunday.

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

What you can 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 the article on resolving problems at work.

Where you can get help

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) and Advice NI offer free, confidential and impartial advice on employment rights issues for residents of Northern Ireland.

If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.

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