Government launches public consultation
More shops and businesses could be allowed to open on Sundays from the start of next year depending on the results of a community-wide consultation exercise.
Commerce Minister Wayne Panton said liberalizing regulations restricting trade on Sundays could stimulate economic activity and create jobs.
He said the public consultation period, which began on Friday, would be complete by September. He wants to hear the views of everyone from checkout girls to business owners, with a view to making a decision on whether changes are necessary by the end of the year.
Currently certain businesses – including gas stations, hair salons and pharmacies – are allowed to open on Sundays under a schedule of exemptions to the Sunday Trading Law.
An expansion of that schedule – which would require an order of Cabinet rather than an amendment to the legislation – is the most likely route for government to liberalize the regulations.
“We are asking a series of questions to help us build the appropriate policy. We want feedback from consumers – what level of commerce would they like to see on Sundays? We want to hear, of course, from businesses and from the Chamber [of Commerce], but also from employees that may be concerned about being asked to work seven-days-a-week,” Minister Panton said.
Issues include: what type of businesses should be allowed to open Sundays, whether there should be restricted hours, and what protections may be required for employees.
Mr. Panton first announced the intention to hold a public consultation on the Sunday trading issue in his budget speech in May.
Formal consultation papers were published Friday and are available through the government’s website. A series of public meetings is planned for later in the year.
Level playing field
One issue, highlighted by the Chamber of Commerce in a position paper on the issue, is that some rogue traders are already opening on Sundays – putting those that play by the rules at a disadvantage.
The Chamber points out that many small businesses open on Sundays anyway, without consequences, and calls for the law to be changed to level the playing field.
It recommends that all businesses be allowed to open for a maximum of five hours on a Sunday.
Mr. Panton acknowledged that some stores did open on Sundays and said there was a need to regularize the rules so that everyone had the same opportunity.
“I think there is an acceptance and an acknowledgement that these stores are serving an important need in the community by opening on Sundays and perhaps there is a need to regularize that and ensure they are not doing so outside the law,” he said.
Under the current law, he said, necessities like bread and milk are allowed to be sold on Sunday. “The reality is that any store selling those items is going to be selling other things as well,” he added.
Currently, contravening the Sunday Trading Law carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine on first conviction and a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for six months for a second or subsequent conviction.
Cayman has had a law restricting Sunday trading for 50 years. The legislation was first enacted in January 1964.