Written by Ariel Finkelstien and Tomer Yahud
This study examines the laws of commerce and employment on the official day of rest in most of the developed countries around the world :
1. Rest Days: In the overwhelming majority of developed countries, most of the citizens work Monday-Friday while Saturday and Sunday serve as rest days. In general however, countries do not set Saturday as an official day of rest, and only some countries declare Sunday as a rest day.
2. The Scope of Restrictions: While most Western European countries have various restrictions on commercial activity on the rest day, in the majority of countries in North America, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, East Asia and Oceania there are no such significant restrictions.
The most distinctive finding arising from the study is a global trend of decline in restrictions on commercial activity on rest days. This trend began in the 1970’s, intensified during the 1990’s, and reached its peak in recent years in Europe with the reduction of restrictions on commerce on the day of rest in Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark although some of these countries still maintain significant restrictions. In practice, South Korea is the only country in which restrictions were increased in recent years. Nonetheless, even today there are still a considerable number of countries – such as Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and Norway – in which almost no commercial activity is permitted on the rest day.
3. Types of Restrictions: There are a number of different types of restrictions on trade activity on rest days: Total restriction on commerce with vut s few exceptions; the designation of a number of Sundays on which commercial activity is permitted; the granting of decision-making powers to local government; the restriction of the activity of businesses of a certain size (measured by area); the imposition of restrictions or the granting of exceptions to certain sectors.
4. The Public Discussion: The central groups supporting restrictions on commercial activity on rest days are generally trade unions and small business owners interested in instituting Sunday as an official rest day. In addition, religious groups such as the Catholic and other Churches have an interest in devoting Sunday to church attendance and other religious activity. On the other hand, the support for removing restrictions on commercial activity on the rest day is usually provided by consumer groups interested in utilizing it for shopping and other consumer activity. In addition, they argue that denying them this possibility constitutes an infringement of their individual liberty. Other supporters of lifting restrictions claim that doing so will serve to strengthen the economy.
5. Labor Laws: Many countries have legislated laws that determine that an employee may be employed on the official rest day only with his/her freely given consent, and that refusal to so work cannot be grounds for non-employment or for termination of employment. In most countries, the employer is obligated to allow a substitute day of rest and 53% of the countries examined in the study (23 out of 43) have instituted a salary increment of between 50%-100% to be added to the regular salary for working (voluntarily) on Sundays.