Cyprus Mail

House to discuss new shop hours… again

By Elias Hazou

THE Labour ministry has forwarded to parliament new regulations on shop hours, asking the House to vote on these as soon as possible.

The latest decree issued by minister Zeta Emilianidou on shop opening hours expired on November 30, necessitating the enactment of new ordinances which aim to regulate the matter on a permanent basis.

The minister cannot issue a new decree, after parliament stripped her of that power earlier this year. As such, any new regulations need the nod from parliament.

Under the new regulations drafted by the ministry, general (non-specialty) stores will operate from 5am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 11am to 7pm on Sundays. This applies to the Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos districts.

The same applies for the Famagusta district, except longer hours are allowed for Sundays: 7.30am to 11pm.

In addition, on Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, all shops will remain open no later than 6pm.

The regulations were approved by the cabinet on November 24.

In an accompanying report, the labour ministry stressed the importance of keeping extended shopping hours as a means of containing unemployment.

Since July 2013, when extended hours were introduced, some 8,000 previously-jobless people were hired by retail businesses, the ministry noted.

It cited official statistics, according to which retail trade turnover in August was 4 per cent higher compared to the corresponding month last year.

The new regulations are to apply as of January 2, 2016, after the Christmas and New Year holiday season, during which shops traditionally operate under flexible trading hours.

In early May, opposition parties passed legislation barring most, but not all, stores from operating on Sundays.

The President refused to sign off on the bill and referred it to the Supreme Court, on the grounds it was unconstitutional (discriminated between businesses) and impinged on the right to engage in profitable labour freely and without hindrance.

Acting fast, the labour minister then delivered a new decree for extended hours, arguing this was legally justified as it was issued before the lapse of the one in force at the time.

The Supreme Court has finished hearing the President’s referrals, and is due to deliver its verdict soon.

Under the previous regimen, the minister would issue decrees on an ad hoc basis allowing shops in tourist areas to operate on Sundays from 11am to 7pm and have extended hours during the rest of the week. The last such decree expired at the end of April this year, with parliament forcing the issue to be regulated by law.

Opposition parties maintain that the measure – particularly Sunday shopping – has benefited large retailers to the detriment of small outfits.

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