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Parliament refuses to relax shop opening hours

Switzerland’s parliament has refused to allow all shops across the country to remain open until 8pm during the week.

Senators on Monday turned down a motion proposed by the Christian Democrat senator Filippo Lombardi to streamline shop hours during the week. The House of Representatives had earlier rejected the idea.

Under the Ticino senator’s proposal, shops across the country could have opened from 6am to 8pm from Monday to Friday and from 6am to 6pm on Saturday. Cantons could have opened later if they wanted.

However, many centre-left and centre-right senators did not agree.

“This law only aims at imposing a liberalisation on cantons which don’t want it,” declared Social Democrat Christian Levrat. He recalled the numerous failed attempts by cantons to liberalise shop opening hours at the ballot box.

He added that if cantons St Gallen or Ticino had problems, for example, they had to resolve them at their level and not be imposed from above.

Shop hours vary according to region, with big disparities between French- and German-speaking cities, which tend to stay open later.

Swiss shops can open Monday to Friday from 6am to 11pm. However, the cantons have to defer to labour law which takes precedence and which protects the interests of workers. Most cantons have set out further restrictions in their laws on retail trading hours.

Though still more restrictive than in the rest of Europe, Swiss retail opening hours have been loosening bit by bit in the past few years. Shops at petrol stations or at railway stations – a lot of these have sprung up recently – or businesses that employ family members are now allowed to stay open for longer. Airports and tourist resorts are also granted an exception.

If Lombardi’s changes to the shop hours had passed, it would not have affected the current situation in eleven cantons, mostly in the Swiss-German region, which already have longer hours. However, in the French-speaking region it would have involved an extension of opening hours.  

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swissinfo.ch with agencies


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