The Malta Independent 18 November 2018, Sunday

Reform means that all shops can open on Sundays without having to pay additional fees

Neil Camilleri Tuesday, 10 January 2017, 10:30 Last update: about 3 years ago

Small shops are now allowed to open on Sundays without having to pay a €700 fee, according to new rules laid out in a recently published Legal Notice.

Shops that will start opening on Sundays have to give up a weekday in return and they have to notify the relevant authorities, Economy Minister Chris Cardona said this morning.

Dr Cardona and Consumer Affairs Minister Helena Dalli gave details about the shop opening time reform at a press conference held at the Embassy Shopping Complex in Valletta this morning.

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The Economy Minister said the government had realised that the old legislation no longer reflected today’s realities. He also pointed out certain discriminatory practices – in touristic areas shops were allowed to operate on Sundays when shops in other localities were not. “Operators should have more discretion in the way they run their businesses, and be allowed to be competitive and grow.”

He announced that all shops are now allowed to open on Sundays without paying a €700 fee. Shops will be allowed to open between 6am and 5pm on Sundays, while giving up a weekday instead. Grocers and other shops selling ‘essential items’ can now open between 6am and 1pm.

Up till now Valletta shops were allowed to open on Sundays whenever cruise liners were in port.  This is now also being extended to shops in Cospicua, Vittoriosa, Senglea and Kalkara when ships are moored on their side of the port.

In order to extend opening hours, shop owners had to apply for a permit from the Trade Licensing Unit and a notice had to be published in the government gazette. This requirement has now been done away with. Shops can now stay open until 10pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays without having to apply for a permit. They can also open on public holidays, including Easter Sunday and Carnival Sunday.

Dr Cardona said bigger establishments were free to pay €700 a week to open all year round but this reform was mainly aimed at smaller shops for which Sundays were more important than some weekdays.

Consumer Affairs Minister Helena Dalli said the reform was badly needed because legislation governing shops and other commercial activities had not yet caught up with reality. Times have changed and the needs of both shop owners and consumers had changed, she said.  

The reform was the result of a wide consultation exercise with the social partners in the Employment Relations Board.

Part of the reform deals with the conditions of salespersons, whose rights are being safeguarded, she said. Workers who have no mention of Sundays in their contracts have the right to refuse to work on Sundays.

The government, she said, had managed to find the right balance between the needs of shop owners and the rights of workers.

GRTU President Paul Abela thanked the government for realizing that things had changed and pushing for a reform. He also said up to 70% of shop owners had been in favour of greater flexibility and the liberty to open on Sundays or on different times. 

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