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Christmas Day Trading Quick Facts

Relevant or Related Legislation: Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004. Sunday Trading Act 1994.

Current Position:

Kevan Jones MP introduced a Private Members' Bill, the Christmas Day (Trading) Bill on 7 January 2004. The Bill passed successfully through parliament and received Royal Assent on 28 October. The Act came into force on 9 December 2004.

In addition to regulating opening by large shops on Sunday (See separate factsheet on Sunday Trading), the Sunday Trading Act 1994 prohibits large shops from opening on Easter Sunday. 

Recent Relevant Campaigns or Consultation:

A campaign by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) argued that large shops should be prohibited from opening on Christmas Day.

A public consultation was launched on 8 April 2003 on proposed new regulation of Christmas Day trading, which would prohibit large shops (retail area exceeding 280 sq m/3,000 sq ft) from opening on Christmas Day falling on any day of the week.

Results of Consultation

In response to the public consultation, 97% of respondents supported keeping Christmas Day special and agreed that large shops should remain closed. The remaining 3%, all from individual members of the public, opposed the proposal on the grounds that it was discriminatory against other religions.

Of the responses logged, 18% were from major retailers, 6% were from small shops and retail staff organisations, answering on behalf of their members. 4% were received from Christian groups. The remaining 72% of responses were from private individuals.

Key Facts:

Under the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 large shops (over 280 sq m/3,000 sq ft) must remain closed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What is the law on shops opening on Christmas Day?
Q2. What would be the effect of new regulation on smaller shops?
Q3. Why did the Government support new regulation?
Q4. What is the position in Scotland?
Q5. When did the new  regulation come into force?
Q6. Would shop workers be paid premium rates for working on Christmas Day?
Q7. Are employees entitled to time off for religious observance on Christmas Day?
Q8. Will the Government relax the limits on opening for the Sundays leading to Cristmas?

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Q1. What is the law on shops opening on Christmas Day?

Large shops (over 280 sq m/3,000 sq ft) must remain closed.

Q2. What  effect does the new legislation have on smaller shops?

Small shops are not affected.

Q3. Why did the Government support new regulation?

The Government believed that widespread opening by large shops would seriously undermine the special nature of Christmas Day well as having an adverse effect on employees.  It believed that legislation now will avoid a problem arising at a later date. The Government consulted key stakeholders for their views to inform consideration of new regulation.

Q4. What is the position in Scotland?

Regulation of Sunday and Christmas Day trading is a devolved matter.  The position in Scotland is being considered separately by the Scottish Executive.

Q5. When did the new  regulation come into force?

The Act came into force on 9 December 2004.

Q6. Would shop workers be paid premium rates for working on Christmas Day?

Whether employees are entitled to extra pay for working on Christmas Day (or any other public holiday) is a contractual matter for negotiation between employers and employees.

Q7. Are employees entitled to time off for religious observance on Christmas Day?

Government policy is to encourage employers to respond flexibly and sympathetically to any requests for leave, including requests for religious holidays.

Q8. Will the Government relax the limits on opening for the Sundays leading up to Christmas?

There are no current plans to change the law in this respect.  The Government will continue to monitor operation of the Sunday Trading Act 1994 to ensure it continues to meet current needs.

Contacts:

See the Employment Matters area of this web site for enquiries about employees' rights and protection and religious festivals.