The issue of night opening of food shops – including supermarkets and minimarkets – will be worked on by the government over the next 18 months, it was announced on Wednesday.
The issue is a contentious one in France, as unions have traditionally opposed measures that would involve employees working more anti-social hours. This summer the first hypermarkets to trial opening on a Sunday afternoon were the target of pickets and protests.
The government had first planned a consultation on the subject, but rather than face a likely outcry by unions, it has instead opted to simply prepare an ordonannce “within 18 months” for any measures necessary for night opening of a food shop.
The proposed text will allow supermarkets and mini markets to open from 9pm onwards under the same rules as other night businesses such as cinemas, bars and clubs.
At the moment although food shops are allowed to open until late at night or all night, they can only do so under very strict conditions.
The conditions include double pay for employees, night shifts done on a strictly voluntary basis, equivalent compensatory rest and contributions to travel costs.
The relaxation of these rules would likely lead to more all-night opening, which the government says will benefit shift workers.
Currently most supermarkets close at either 9pm or 9.30pm and among those that do offer 24/7 opening, it is generally only for one day a week.
Although many minimarkets open all day on Sunday, until this summer the bigger supermarkets and hypermarkets were either closed all day on Sunday or only opened in the morning.
The trial of Sunday afternoon opening – which has been rolled out by the Casino chain – involved automated tills only in the afternoon, meaning that customers cannot buy alcohol or knives.