London Olympics
London Olympics: Shops Can Remain Open Longer on Sundays REUTERS

The UK's Sunday trading rules will be suspended during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to allow shops and businesses in London to remain open for longer.

The government's decision is designed to help struggling retailers capitalise on the extra business the Games are expected to generate.

The move could generate tens of millions of pounds for retailers, and Sunday working will not be compulsory for employees.

"Retail workers will keep all their legal protections, such as the right to opt out of Sunday working, but many will want to take the opportunity to work extra or different hours. I want employers to work with their staff so that we can all make the most of the Olympics. I want to make it clear that this is a temporary measure and not a test case for a permanent relaxation of the rules in the future," the Telegraph reported Business Minister Norman Lamb as saying.

The Sunday trading law will be suspended until 9 September. The law, which is designed to protect small businesses, dictates that shops with a floor area greater than 280 square metres (3,000 square feet) can open only for six hours on Sundays, between the hours of 10am and 6pm.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), which represents shop workers, has not welcomed the move, claiming that it will set a precedent for deregulation.

"Usdaw remains vehemently opposed to the deregulation of Sunday trading and we expect the government to abide by its commitment that this summer's temporary suspension will not lead to any further attempts to extend Sunday opening hours. The government failed to make a coherent business case for the suspension and there is no evidence that it will boost the economy or tourism," the BBC quoted the general secretary of Usdaw John Hannett as saying.

Hannett also said that the decision may not be welcomed by the majority of workers.

Extended Sunday trading hours will simply put more pressure on workers rather than more money in their pockets, Hannett said.

Usdaw called for major employers to offer increased pay to shop workers who volunteer for Sunday work.

Smaller retailers, meanwhile, fear that they will lose valuable trade to large supermarkets.