MPs last week voted through emergency legislation to suspend Sunday trading laws in England and Wales for eight weeks from 22 July.

Under the Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Act, shops with a floor area of more than 280 square metres will not be subject to current Sunday trading restrictions during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, has condemned the changes. In particular, it criticised the imposition of a three-line whip on coalition MPs, meaning all Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs were compelled to back the Bill. The usual convention is to allow a free vote on the issue.

It also criticised the government for forcing through this unpopular bill after just nine hours debate in both the House of Commons and House of Lords.

A survey of over 20,000 Usdaw members conducted since the Chancellor's budget in March found that:

  • 78 per cent oppose the suspension of Sunday trading laws during the Olympic Games this summer
  • 51 per cent say they come under pressure from their employer to work Sundays
  • 73 per cent say they would come under more pressure to work Sundays if shops were allowed to open for longer.

A similar survey conducted by Usdaw in 2011 found that 47% of members have caring responsibilities for children, elderly relatives or others that make it difficult to work on a Sunday.

A Gfk/NOP survey carried out in 2010 found that 89 per cent of the public were opposed to any relaxation of the Sunday trading laws.

The suspension will last for eight Sundays, from 22 July to the end of the Paralympic Games on 9 September, when the government insists that the current Sunday trading restrictions will apply again.