Retail stores should be banned from opening on Boxing Day, a senior MP has said as Parliament prepares to debate calls for action.
Labour’s Helen Jones, who chairs the Petitions Committee, said the current system of Boxing Day sales exploits lower paid workers and deprives them of time with their families over the festive period.
MPs will hold a Westminster Hall debate on a petition with more than 140,000 signatures, which wants all retail shops to close the day after Christmas.
The British Retail Consortium says Boxing Day has been a popular shopping day for years.
The Government’s response to the petition said it is not for them to tell businesses how best to run their shops and it is not proposing a ban.
But Ms Jones, who will lead today’s debate, said evidence submitted to her committee’s online forum has convinced her that the Government should take action.
She said: “I went from feeling quite indifferent about Boxing Day openings to believing it does exploit very low paid workers, who often have to work late on Christmas Eve to get the shops ready and then have to go in very early on Boxing Day morning.”
Ms Jones said staff faced serious problems with public transport and childcare around Christmas, while additional pay for working these unseasonal hours had all but disappeared across the sector.
She added: “What I’ve not seen is anything to convince me that Boxing Day generates extra trade, as opposed to just moving it from another day.
“No one died because a shop was shut, and I think we are exercising our freedom to shop whenever we want on the backs of some very low-paid workers, who are being exploited and being denied the freedom to expect to have the time with their families.”
Almost 6,000 comments were submitted to the Petition Committee’s online forum, the majority of which backed store closures. UK shoppers spent £3.74 billion in the Boxing Day sales in 2015, according to research from VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research - a 6% increase on 2014.
A House of Commons report states 365,000 people in the UK retail industry worked on Boxing Day in 2014, which equated to 12% of those employed in the sector.