The government has failed to apply the family test to its plans to liberalise Sunday trading regulations, according to research commissioned by the Association of Convenience Stores.

The prime minister launched the family test in 2014 for government departments to use when introducing new policies, aimed at introducing “an explicit family perspective to the policy-making process”.

Announcing the ‘family test’ after the London riots, David Cameron said: “From here on, I want a family test applied to all domestic policy. If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keep people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.”

But research by the Social Market Foundation found that relaxing Sunday trading restrictions would pose significant risks to family life.

Its research, Sunday Trading: Applying the Family Test, raised the following issues:

  • People working in retail already have some of the highest rates of working overtime and weekend working. The proposals are likely to increase this further.
  • Only 25% of parents are content with their work/home life balance, with 77% reporting that work impinges on the time that they could dedicate to core activities with their children such as homework, taking them to clubs and putting them to bed.
  • Despite there being some legal protections in place to allow workers to opt out of working on Sundays, liberalising the trading hours will increase pressure on workers to do more hours.
  • The government’s own study from 2006 which sets out the benefits of longer Sunday trading hours suggests that the ‘greater convenience’ would save families just two minutes per week.

Emran Mian, director of the Social Market Foundation, said: “The risks to family life posed by the Government’s proposed changes to Sunday trading regulations are significant.

“Retail is already a sector where staff are working atypical hours, and working for longer on Sundays will hurt families by stopping them from spending time together.”

The government is considering plans to devolve the power to set Sunday trading hours to local authorities under proposals set out by the chancellor in this year’s Budget. The consultation on these changes closes on 16th September.

The full paper (Sunday Trading: Applying the Family Test) is available on the Association of Convenience Stores website here