President signs bill to restrict Sunday trading

2018-01-30 21:54 update: 2018-09-26, 18:29
President signs bill to restrict Sunday trading
 Photo: PAP/Rafał Guz
President signs bill to restrict Sunday trading Photo: PAP/Rafał Guz
Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed into law an act of parliament which puts restrictions on Sunday trading, and said it restores normality.

The new regulations were passed by the Sejm (lower house) in November 2017, and later amended by the Senate (upper house), before the Sejm gave its final approval earlier this month. Now, with the signature of the head of state, restrictions on Sunday shopping have become law.

Under the new legislation, as of March 2018, shopping will only be allowed on the first and last Sunday of the month. As of January 1, 2019, this will be further reduced to one, the last Sunday of the month.

As of January 1, 2020, the ban will be total, except for seven specific Sundays of the year. Poles will be able to shop on the last two Sundays before Christmas, the one before Easter, as well as on the last Sundays of January, April, June and August.

In addition, shopping on Christmas Eve and on the Saturday immediately preceding Easter will only be permitted until 2 pm.

"I believe that by introducing the new law," the president said, "we are restoring normality" and "getting used to how things are in other European Union countries, such as Germany or Austria, where shops are closed on Sunday."

Duda noted the restrictions would be phased in gradually and there are a number of exceptions.

Certain establishments, as listed by the Sejm and later specified more precisely by the Senate, will be exempt from the ban. These include flower shops, bakeries, cake stores and ice-cream parlours (provided that this is their main activity).

Trade will also be allowed in railway and airport stores, in duty-free zones, on public transport, in wholesale agricultural markets, at entities which buy farming products (from cereals to milk) from farmers and (between June and September) at companies dealing in spare parts and agricultural equipment.

Franchise shops, on the other hand, are subject to the restrictions, unless, for the Sunday, the owners conduct business "on their own behalf and for their own benefit."

"Small stores run by families and individual owners will be allowed to operate on Sundays, if staffed by the owners themselves," the head of state said, "but shop staff will have Sundays off, so that they can spend this time with their families."

According to the president, this will ensure that all children are able to spend quality time with their parents, whatever the latter's occupation, and so "this law is a concrete manifestation of the solidarity which exists within our society, between Poles."

Those who violate the restrictions will face fines of between PLN 1,000 and PLN 100,000 (between EUR 241.2 and EUR 24,119), while the most persistent offenders may even be sentenced to prison.

The new regulations were originally proposed to parliament by a citizens group which includes the Solidarity trade union.

Solidarity leader Piotr Duda, who was present when the head of state signed the bill into law at the Presidential Palace, said afterwards that "we have waited a long time for this day, none more so than shop employees, who number almost 1.2 million."

"This is big step forward towards civilisation, in terms of the labour code and in terms of employees, in terms of treating them as individuals and not objects," the trade union official emphasised. (PAP)