Independents and SMEs oppose extending shop opening hours

Independents and SMEs oppose extending shop opening hours
Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

A move to extend opening hours in shops has been contested by independents and SMEs during a hearing Wednesday morning in the Belgian parliament's economic committee, reported RTBF.

The Union for the Self-Employed argued the exceptions in place would not arm SMEs better against online commerce. The Union for the Middle Classes pointed out that existing exceptions are not used. "For example, the City of Brussels organises a shopping action every first Sunday of the month. And we see that traders do not open systematically," said Daphné Sior.

Neutral Union for Independents stressed that 78% of its members were against extending opening hours till 22:00, pointing to issues such as the potential increases in salary and energy costs.

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Yet the trade sector federation Comeas favoured more flexibility in opening hours, but without increasing the total numbers of hours. A click and collect service could function until 22:00 offering more flexibility.

Legislation on opening hours

No less than five proposals have been tables concerning the opening hours of shops in the Belgian parliament.

On the left, the PS – the francophone socialist party –  tabled two bills. One was co-signed by Vooruit – the Flemish socialist party – concerning the issue of fake bookstore. The second socialist proposal aims to make it easier for businesses to set up in hospitals. Both texts have been favourably received.

Meanwhile, the liberals have two proposals aimed at making working hours more flexible. MR – the francophone liberals – want to let businesses open until 22:00. The proposal would remove the weekly day off for and instead have it once a month. Open Vld – the Flemish liberals– want to to abolish the compulsory rest day, in addition to closing at 22:00. Both proposals have been under fire.

A fifth bill was tabled by CD&V – the Flemish conservatives – that relaxes the rules concerning the rest day to give more flexibility for shops, without abolishing the general rule. This proposal appears to have more support within the sector.

Political debates concerning the opening hours of shops will continue at the parliament's next economic committee meeting.

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