Switzerland debates expanding Sonntagsverkauf to nearly a quarter of all Sundays

Switzerland debates expanding Sonntagsverkauf to nearly a quarter of all Sundays

In a statement, the Cantonal Council of Zurich has thrown its weight behind a proposal to allow shops to open on more Sundays every year. Authorities have argued the plans could help secure both jobs and physical stores, while critics have labelled them an attempt to undermine the ban on Sunday working.

New plan to expand Sonntagsverkauf in Switzerland

In a statement on November 20, the council of Canton Zurich said that it would be in favour of a plan to increase the number of Sundays when all stores are able to open. Currently, all stores in Switzerland are meant to be closed on Sundays - with the exception of those in airports, train stations and in some select areas like ski resorts.

However, federal authorities have allowed stores to open for Sunday shopping “Sonntagsverkauf” on four Sundays a year - typically in the lead-up to holidays like Christmas. Under the plans, this number would be extended to 12, meaning stores will be able to remain open for nearly a quarter of all Sundays each year.

Supporters say plan can save physical stores

The plan was originally created by Zurich FDP Cantonal Councillor André Müller. As it will likely involve a change in the constitution, the plan will now be sent to the federal government as an initiative to be voted on as a nationwide referendum.

In advocating for the plan, authorities made the point that physical stores have come under increasing pressure from shops on the internet, which face no restrictions on trading beyond the Sunday suspension of the postal service. They argued that giving stores the option to open more often on Sundays would make them more competitive and secure jobs in retail.

Unions say Swiss sales workers already on the brink

However, the idea has not gone down well with Swiss unions, with Unia Zurich-Schaffhausen writing in a statement that the proposal only seeks to “further undermine the general ban on Sunday work.” They said that the industry already has a problem with working hours that come “at the expense of the health of sales staff”, arguing that making Sunday shopping more possible would further complicate an already difficult work-life balance.

“People who work in sales want a Sunday off work so they can spend time with family and friends,” noted union co-managing director Serge Gnos. The union added that sales staff are already not compensated enough for the work they do; “Sales is a low-wage industry in which wages are still paid that is barely enough to live on. Across Switzerland, around 47.000 people work in sales for less than 4.000 francs per month.”

Finally, SP Cantonal Councillor Hannah Pfalzgraf made the point that the proposed rules may put those who only work Sundays during a Sonntagsverkauf at a financial disadvantage, noting that “if Sunday work were expanded, employees would no longer even benefit from the wage supplements. From the seventh Sunday onwards, such a surcharge no longer applies.” 

Thumb image credit: InnaFelker /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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