Germany celebrates 1.700 years of work-free Sundays

Germany celebrates 1.700 years of work-free Sundays

This week, church representatives and trade unionists celebrated 1.700 years of work-free Sundays in Germany. However, the HDE retail federation wants to go to court to fight for more shops being allowed to open on the Lord’s day of rest.

The day of rest

1.700 years ago, in the year 321, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great venerated Sunday as a day of rest for all citizens, dedicating it as “dies Sol Invictus” or “the day of the Unconquered Sun.” Representatives from the Church and the Ver.di trade union celebrated the occasion earlier this week.

However, this year, the German retail association Handelverband Deutschland (HDE) wants to petition the Federal Constitutional Court to allow for more opportunities for shops to open on Sundays. The HDE argues that, with so many businesses threatened by the coronavirus lockdown, shops should be allowed to open on Sundays and the HDE president, Josef Sanktjohanser, said that such a decision will play a role in making inner cities more attractive. The HDE has said that if no legal solutions are forthcoming, it will take its complaints to the courts.

The Ver.di trade union has reiterated its stance against working on Sundays, with board member Stefanie Nutzenberger saying, “Sunday openings are not the solution for future-proof and sustainable trade." There is also the worry that more retail businesses being allowed to open on Sunday will lead to more widespread working on Sundays. "An extension of shop opening hours is the door opener for Sunday work for other industries, and the Sunday protection is anchored in the Basic Law for good reason," said Nutzenberger.

Who works on Sundays?

Estimates from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) show that about a quarter of employees in Germany work regularly on Sundays. As of 2009, any business or employer that wants to open on Sunday must have a sufficient factual reason to do so.

The HDE believe that, in light of coronavirus in Germany and the subsequent lockdowns, the retail industry needs every opportunity to try and get back on its feet.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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