Constitutional Court upholds Sunday shopping ban

Ljubljana – The Constitutional Court has ruled the legislative amendments that ban most shops from being open on Sundays is not in contravention of the constitution as claimed by several retail companies.

In a unanimous decision announced on Friday, the court holds the right to free enterprise invoked by the petitioners may be limited if a public interest such as protection of health is proven.

The court based its decision on the second paragraph of article 74 of the constitution, which provides that “commercial activities may not be pursued in a manner contrary to the public interest”.

It says that based on that the legislature can limit the right to free economic initiative with measures in order to achieve that the second paragraph of the mention clause is complied with.

The court says that it follows from the legislative material that the legislature had been aiming to achieve several goals, including to allow shop staff free Sundays and public holidays.

The court holds that ensuring employees a weekly rest is in the public interest of the protection of employees in line with the principles of the European Social Charter.

The court also cited the general provisions of the employment relationship act under which work on Sundays and holidays is an exception rather than the rule.

The court threw out a petition to examine the section of the amendments that impose fines of between EUR 1,000 and 100,000 to companies and sole proprietors who violate work time rules.

Petitions against the amendments to the trade act that imposed the ban on Sunday shopping had been filed by Magistrat International, Fama Trend, VM5 and Intersport ISI.

The amendments, which came into effect in late October last year, allow some exceptions to the ban on Sunday opening hours, including shops under 200 m2 at service stations, border crossings, ports, airports, train and bus stations, and hospitals.

Outside these facilities, shops with a surface area of under 200 m2 may be open, but only shop owners, students and pensioners may work Sundays, regular employees may not.

Based on an initiative from the trade union of retail workers, the legislation was tabled by the opposition Left, which welcomed the decision, saying that the court had unanimously sided with retail workers.

“It is an important decision that puts public interest before economic initiative and, consequently, the quality of life before profits of retailers,” the party said in a press release.

The Left noted the many letters of support for the ban by retail workers in which they talked about the negative impact of Sunday work on their family and social lives, and about physical exhaustion, burnout and social exclusion.

“Retail shops are actually 7,000 workers short and the existing employees are frequently forced to work more than 40 hours a week,” the party said, adding that the fight for higher wages and better working conditions was only just beginning.

Mariča Lah, the head of the Chamber of Commerce (TZS), told the STA that the decision of the Constitutional Court would be respected. The chamber will examine it thoroughly and then decide on what future steps to take.