New plans to allow local shops in Switzerland to open on Sunday

New plans to allow local shops in Switzerland to open on Sunday

Local shops and supermarkets in Switzerland could soon see Sunday shopping become a regular thing, thanks to a newly approved motion from the National Council. Supporters argued the proposal would help support rural residents and businesses, while opponents have condemned yet another attempt to reverse the Swiss ban on working on Sundays.

Swiss National Council approves relaxed Sunday shopping rules

On March 12, by 109 votes to 79, the Swiss National Council voted in favour of a plan to allow local shops to open on Sundays. The proposal, submitted by FDP National Councillor Philippe Nantermod, is the latest attempt to relax Sunday shopping laws in Switzerland, following an attempt by Federal Economics Minister Guy Parmelin (SVP), that was announced in August 2023.

Currently, workers in Switzerland are not allowed to clock in on Sundays without special authorisation. Generally speaking, only shops at airports, train stations, petrol stations, some ski resorts, family businesses and bakeries are permitted to remain open every Sunday of the year, and staff are given generous salary compensation for working on the day through overtime.

FDP: Rural areas of Switzerland hurt by Sunday shopping ban

Under the approved plans, the Swiss government would give small grocery stores and supermarkets the right to be open seven days a week. While it would be up to each canton to decide how to implement the law, Nantermod argued the proposal would give regions the legal certainty and consent needed to expand Sunday shopping rules on their own.

At the debate, Nantermod said that the current rules have a severe negative impact on more rural areas, which do not have a place to shop close by. He argued that it would not contradict the ban on Sunday shopping as cantons would still restrict the practice by “the size of the store, its assortment or its number of employees.” If his proposal passes the Council of States, the Federal Council will be required to draft the idea into law.

Opponents accuse FDP of chipping away at Swiss Sunday shopping ban

On the opposite side of the aisle stood the Social Democratic Party (SP) and the Federal Council itself. SP National Councillor David Roth told Watson that the proposal showed “disdain for federalism and the will of people”, noting that referendums designed to relax Sunday working rules have been consistently rejected by citizens.

The Federal Council is also not a huge fan. While Guy Parmelin has stated his commitment to expanding Sunday shopping in the past, he argued that Nantermod’s idea contradicted “the general principle of the ban on Sunday work” that is so valued by the public. 

The Unia trade union accused the FDP of gradually chipping away at the ban on Sunday work “instead of protecting [the] health” of workers. Workers umbrella organisation Travail.Suisse added fuel to the fire, condemning what they described as "persistent attacks against Sunday, a day off…[that is] particularly important for staff rest and as a time to spend with family or friends.”

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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