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Column 340Stern, Michael
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Timothy Kirkhope and
Mr. Michael Brown.
Question accordingly negatived.
-- Limitation on working hours on Sunday
6A. No shop worker shall be employed on Sunday for more than eight hours and any provision in any shop worker's contract of employment or in any agreement which requires, or may have the effect of requiring, that worker to be so employed for more than eight hours is unenforceable to the extent that it so requires or may so require.'.
Minimum Hourly Rate of Pay
Whether employed full or part-time including Sunday only employees, the minimum hourly rate payable to such employees for Sunday shop work before any enhancement is calculated, shall be calculated by reference to the prevailing income support benefit rate or its nearest approximate successor rate applicable to those in receipt of such benefit aged 25 years and over multiplied by three and divided by thirty-seven.'.
No. 65, in page 19, line 29, at end insert--
Right to double-time payments
9A.--(1) A shop worker working on a Sunday shall be remunerated at twice the hourly rate applicable on a weekday to that job. (2) It shall be the duty of the employer of a shop worker working on a Sunday to give him a written statement of the hourly rate applicable for the purposes of sub- paragraph (1) above and of how that rate has been determined.
(3) A complaint by a shop worker that he has not been remunerated as required by sub-paragraph (1) above, that he has not been given any statement required by sub-paragraph (2) above or that he is aggrieved by anything in or by any omission from such a statement may be presented to an industrial tribunal.
(4) An individual tribunal shall not consider a complaint under sub- paragraph (3) above unless it is presented to the tribunal before the end of the period of three months beginning when the act complained of was done.
(5) Where an industrial tribunal finds that a complaint presented to it under sub-paragraph (3) above is well founded the tribunal shall make such of the following as it considers just and equitable
(a) an order declaring the rights of the complainant and the respondent in relation to the act to which the complaint relates, and
(b) an order requiring the respondent to pay to the complainant compensation not exceeding the limit for the time being imposed by section 75 of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978.'.
Column 341No. 56, in page 21, line 47, at end insert--
14A The extent of any failure by an employer to remunerate a shop worker as required under paragraph 9A above shall be regarded as a deduction made by the employer from the wages of that shop worker and the relevant provisions of Part I of the Wages Act 1986 shall accordingly apply in respect of that failure.'.
No. 66, in page 22, line 10, at end insert--
17A. In section 136 of the 1978 Act (appeals from industrial tribunals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal) in subsection (1) after paragraph (g), there shall be inserted the words
"(h) the Sunday Trading Act 1994.".'.
Ms Ruddock : I think that there has been some confusion in people's minds about the Bill. The option voted for by a majority of the House was six-hour trading. Many people have equated that with the idea of six-hour working, perhaps believing that those who go to work in shops on a Sunday will, if the Bill becomes law, be required to work for only six hours. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the larger shops, with an eight -hour trading period, it is likely that shopworkers will be in the stores serving customers for the six-hour period ; but, as became clear in the Standing Committee, there would also be a need for what is termed "shopping up" at the end of the day. That could take up an extra half hour. In addition, shelves and tills will have to be prepared before the shops open to the public. Hence we can assume that the shopworkers in the larger stores, dealt with under the registration scheme in the Bill, may be working at least seven hours, and possibly longer.
When it comes to the smaller shops, hon. Members may not have observed that there is no limit on the number of hours that they can open once the Bill becomes law. The representatives of the small shops' pressure groups have not sought to amend the Bill to impose a limit on the number of hours that they can open. It is my view that we shall have to attend to that on Report, especially in the light of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill which, as my hon. Friends have already pointed out, will open the door to 24-hour trading from Monday to Saturday. There will therefore be an obvious need to put some limit on opening hours for the smaller shops on Sundays. This, however, is not an option in the schedule that we are considering. Our option is to amend the Bill so that there is a restriction on the number of hours that shopworkers in any sort of retail outlet can work. We have chosen a limit of eight hours, which seems to us a reasonable time for people to work. They should certainly not work longer than that. If the limit were lower, that would disadvantage workers, in that other provisions of employment protection--mean and miserable though they are under this Government--start with the basic unit of the eight-hour day. That is why we chose eight hours.
We believe that, if hon. Members have any intention of maintaining the special nature of Sunday, they cannot possibly endorse the view that shopworkers should be at work for more than eight hours. I suggest that it will be ideological dogma on the part of the Government if the Minister cannot accept this modest, reasonable amendment.
Amendments Nos. 65, 56 and 66 are all concerned with double-time payments. We believe it right to link double-time payments with the limit on hours that I have already discussed, for the purposes of debate. We shall,
Column 342however, decide whether to press these amendments to a vote after hearing what the Minister has to say. With your indulgence, Mr. Lofthouse, we will press for a separate Division on the amendment dealing with double-time payments--amendment No. 65.
The First Deputy Chairman indicated assent.
It is extremely important that those who go to work on a Sunday receive double-time payments. According to the spring 1992 labour force survey, about 2.3 million employees usually work on Sundays--a very large number of people, whose lives are greatly affected by their need to work on Sundays. They are, however, only 11 per cent. of all employees ; 89 per cent. of employees do not work on Sundays. So for the vast majority of working people Sunday remains a special day, set apart for social, recreational and leisure purposes. Many of the public who support extended Sunday opening regard shopping as a leisure and recreational pursuit--a family-based option that they want on a Sunday. I am not one of those people--I can manage to do my shopping between Monday and Saturday--but I am aware of changing public attitudes, and, as responsible representatives, we must take account of them. Not only do the majority of workers not work on a Sunday : they would not choose to work on a Sunday, either. For that very reason the public are more than sympathetic to the idea that those who give up their leisure pursuits on a Sunday in order to go to work should be rewarded.
Most people regard Sunday as a special day, which is why it seems to them, as it does to my hon. Friends and me, that it is only just that those who forgo their vital opportunities to share social pursuits with friends and family on a Sunday should get double-time payments.
Some Conservative Members have argued that Sunday is a special day, and claim that they have voted only for partial deregulation, congratulating themselves on the employment protections in the Bill. Surely they must acknowledge that all that underlines the thesis that Sunday is a special day, and that those who go to work on it should have some recompense for the fact that they are at work.
For a long time, Sunday has been recognised in many industries as a day of unsocial hours. When I spoke of the millions of employees who work on Sundays, I was not thinking of those who have been working illegally ; I was thinking of people who legally work on Sundays. Through their trade unions, they have negotiated wages and conditions that reflect these unsocial hours. I remind the Committee that double-time payments are still extensively paid in many sectors of the economy. I understand that about 3 million local authority workers receive double-time payments, as do 500,000 NHS workers and more than 250,000 civil servants--I could add to that list. So there are clear precedents ; double-time payments for unsocial hours, which certainly cover Sunday working, have been the norm in the past. A number of major retail employers have also paid double time. Some of them have been making those payments to workers who work perfectly legally in Scotland. Many of them have also been paying double-time wages to employees who are exempt under current law. But a considerable number--hundreds
Column 343of thousands--are working illegally on a Sunday, for whom double-time or other premium payments have been made by their employers.
It would not be stretching the imagination too far to believe that many of those employers have cynically coerced their workers into Sunday working illegally on the basis of premium pay. They have given that inducement, and one can well understand why their employees have been willing to work on a Sunday and receive double the hourly rate of a weekday. Doubtless some employers have acted on the basis of cynical coercion. I suspect that other employers genuinely believe in rewarding workers appropriately.
The performance of some companies is important to the debate and the way in which Ministers respond to it. Double-time payments have been made to Sunday workers by Allied Maples, Owen Owen, Victoria Wine, Presto and Lo- cost, Littlewoods, the retail co-operative societies, William Low, Safeway, and Tesco. Some of those companies, notably Safeway and Tesco, have made it clear in advance of the debate that they intend to pay the same double-time payments regardless of the debate's outcome. They are to be commended. But from the list that I have given, it will be clear that those companies are in the minority, and we want the provision to cover all companies.
I understand from the shopworkers' union, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, that other companies were once prepared to agree such arrangements but, over the years--recently, in some cases--they have reduced the premiums that they have made available to Sunday workers.
Some companies that employ Sunday-only staff have given a worse rate of pay to those staff than to employees who work on other days of the week and voluntarily work on Sundays in addition to their normal working week. Asda, B&Q, Budgens, Gateway, Woolworth and Sainsbury all have forms of premium pay that fall short of double-time payments. That is most regrettable, as there can be little doubt that those companies are all profitable and able to reward their workers accordingly.
We are most worried, not about the voluntary agreements already entered into, which may or may not be kept once the Bill becomes law, but about the way in which some companies have reversed their policies. In doing so, they may have begun a trend that others will follow.
If Parliament does not intervene and legislate, the sort of action that has occurred at the Morrison supermarket group based in the north of England and the midlands may happen on a wider scale. Again, my information comes from USDAW.
That group employs 16,000 people, about half of whom are vulnerable, part- time and casual workers. Until recently, the company refused on principle to trade illegally on Sundays. It ensured that its workers who could legally work on Sundays received double-time payments. I am sorry to say that, in recent months, that company, like others, has begun to break the law regularly and openly, and to trade illegally on Sundays.
I have been told that, in the past few weeks, the company has given notice that it intends to roster Sundays as a normal working day for all new recruits so that Sunday working will no longer be voluntary. It also intends to abandon its commitment to double-time payments and pay
Column 344only time-and-a-fifth. It is expected to abandon that commitment as it foresees Sunday becoming just another working day.
Those policies go against the spirit of the Bill, and against the many assurances that Ministers have given us. They are clear evidence that at least one company, in anticipating the legalisation of Sunday trading, has not been prepared to continue treating its workers properly or to recognise the voluntary principle. It is turning its back on agreements on wages and other conditions.
Although the Minister has not jumped to his feet as I thought he would, I am sure that he will say later that, if and when the Bill becomes law, the company will be breaking the law in respect of some of the practices that I have described. The Minister will no doubt say that the company cannot avoid the voluntary principle, and will have to allow its workers to opt out if they choose to do so. He will say that, if the company puts pressure on its workers to work on a Sunday against their will, they will, under the legislation, be able to seek redress.
I agree with the Minister on all those points, but if workers are to have real choice and can decide whether or not to work on a Sunday, the company must seek to gather a significant pool of volunteers. How can a company do that if it is only prepared to make plain-time payments on Sunday, not premium payments?
Ms Eagle : Does my hon. Friend agree that the distinction between statutory premium payments and voluntary premium payments is important, not only because it ensures that the market does not drive down wage rates to unacceptable levels, but because of the new structure of employment law? That structure ensures that, if someone is sacked for asserting a statutory right, he or she has the right to go to a tribunal to seek compensation.
That compensation would be significantly higher than would be expected if someone went to a tribunal for any other reason. Statutory premium payments would increase workers' protection against unfair and arbitrary treatment.
The history of the one company that I have described shows the slippery slope down which others might follow. If the Government want the Bill to reach the statute book, they should follow the example of those employers who have said that premium payments and double-time payments are acceptable and necessary to gain a pool of volunteers, and only just and fair to those who give up their time to work on a Sunday to benefit the rest of us.
In saying in advance that they will resist the amendment, the Government fail to recognise the way in which payments and the voluntary principle are interlinked. One Sunday, I paid a private visit to the workers in one of the supermarket stores in my constituency to discuss why they were working. The majority answer was that they were working for the money. Their answer is an indictment of the society in which we live, the recession, and the fact that people are so desperate for money that they are willing to work on a Sunday.
The workers in that Tesco store were receiving on Sunday twice the wage that they would receive on any other day of the week. For some employees, that wage is the only one they take home ; for others, it represents a critical supplement to the family budget. Those people
Column 345work on Sundays because they need the money, not because they choose to spend time serving behind the checkout counters in our supermarkets.
The Minister may say that many people work on a Sunday, that they do so freely and that it has historically been so, but they work in industries and professions where it is necessary, a duty to society and part of the public service to work on Sundays. Those who work in the caring or emergency services have always accepted that they should be prepared to work, in a sense, a seven-day week. That is not true of retailing. Shops do not need to open on Sundays.
The House has voted for shops to open on Sundays, although it may not endorse that decision at a later stage. If shops are to open on Sundays, their workers should receive as of right twice the weekly rate of pay for working on any other day.