According to this source, Poland will gradually forbid commerce on Sundays:

Poland’s ruling party approved a law that will gradually impose a ban on Sunday shopping, meeting the demand of its conservative Catholic supporters with a measure that risks undermining economic growth and hitting corporate profits and real-estate investors.

According to this article, EU regulations deal more with ensuring weekly rest periods rather than ensuring a free Sunday:

There are no specific EU regulations regarding weekend work. The 1993 Working Time Directive determined that the minimum weekly rest period ‘shall, in principle, include Sunday’. In 1996, however, the European Court of Justice annulled this provision by ruling that:

the Council has failed to explain why Sunday, as a weekly rest day, is more closely connected with the health and safety of workers than any other day of the week.

The 2003 Working Time Directive does not refer to any specific day in relation to weekly rest periods or any other aspect of working time. Article 2 of the European Social Charter says that Member States should agree:

to ensure a weekly rest period which shall, as far as possible, coincide with the day recognised by tradition or custom in the country or region concerned as a day of rest.

From the economic point of view, this seems to have a negative effect upon tourism and those who can mostly work during the week-ends (e.g. students).

Question: Why do some countries forbid working on Sunday rather than strictly regulating it?

By strict regulation I am thinking about something resembling my own country's regulation, that can be summed up very roughly as:

  • normal working schedule is 40h/week
  • extended (on request by worker or company) working schedule can be up to 48h/week
  • working on any week-end day is paid (almost) double (or a free day + normal payment)
  • working on any public holiday is paid double and an extra free day

So, working on Sundays is not forbidden, but companies cannot abuse it due to higher costs associated with it.

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    This law can be seen from two points of view: (1) forbidding working on Sundays and/or (2) forbidding shopping on Sundays. I think it's more about (2) than (1). For the record, I live in Poland but do not support ruling party. Nov 27, 2017 at 13:06
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    Isn't the question answered in that first quote? It's what was demanded by "conservative Catholic supporters". Religious appeasment, IOW.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 27, 2017 at 17:56
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    @jamesqf - Yes, that is the simple answer, but I am looking for answers providing more context, so that things make more sense. RoyalCanadianBandit's provided a good answer that explains that this law is a consequence of a political campaign promise and it is actually related to older laws against Sunday trading. On several occasions I found out that a pretty naive questions may lead to very interesting answers.
    – Alexei
    Nov 27, 2017 at 18:52
  • I feel the question is unclear. Where's the line between "strictly regulating" and "forbidding"? The question does not make this clear. Point in case, Germany has been mentioned as a strict "free Sunday" example. But gas stations are open, bakeries offer (limited) service, restaurants are open, many other services are provided. What is regulated is that supermarkets and stores may not open on Sundays (with a few exceptions per year allowed). That is basically what the Bloomberg quote states: Not that work will be "forbidden" on Sundays, but that Sunday shopping is becoming regulated.
    – DevSolar
    Nov 28, 2017 at 10:46

3 Answers 3


The requirement for rest on Sunday is religious in nature, and is not directly related to ensuring sufficient rest time for all workers. Specifically, most denominations of Christianity designate Sunday as a day of rest and prayer.

The Law and Justice Party won elections in Poland in 2015. It has campaigned heavily on its support for traditional Roman Catholic rules of behaviour, and as such it has proposed strict laws against doing business on Sunday.

Although laws against Sunday trading are now uncommon in Western countries, they used to be much more widespread. For example in the UK, most shops were not permitted to open on Sunday until 1994.

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    Without discussing Law and Justice party's motivations, I usually hear a non-religious reason for limiting work in Sunday; since it is the most common day for people to have the day off, often it is the only day family members can gather together, making it desirable to allow as many workers as possible to enjoy it.
    – SJuan76
    Nov 27, 2017 at 9:48
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    @SJuan76 That's a legitimate concern and has become common as a way to defend the rule while trying to deny there is anything religious about it. The problem is that it does not explain why Sunday specifically and is usually not very accurate historically. For example, even France introduced the Sunday rule deliberately to appease the catholic church after a series of conflicts.
    – Relaxed
    Nov 27, 2017 at 11:12
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    @SJuan76 Certainly in the Netherlands – where I'm most familiar with the politics – religious reasons are typically cited as the primary reason, and other arguments tend to be secondary. This doesn't mean they're bad/invalid arguments, or that there aren't more secular people who use these arguments as a primary reason, just that in general the religious argument is the most common/important in discourse about this topic.
    – user11249
    Nov 27, 2017 at 21:44
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    @PaŭloEbermann Non-Catholic Christians are no less religious or zealous than Catholics
    – user6298
    Nov 27, 2017 at 23:02
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    @Relaxed: "The problem is that it does not explain why Sunday specifically" - well, once Sunday has limited commerce in a given place (out of religious reasons), it is certainly easier to keep Sunday the "free" day than declare any other day the "family meetup day". (Saying this as an opponent of giving Sunday such a special status.) Nov 28, 2017 at 6:01

Because their main goal isn't to regulate workforce (although sometimes that argument is used as extra leverage, especially in more secular countries like USA where "because Bible says so" may not fly with the court).

These laws in the West are known as "Blue Laws" - the religiously motivated laws prohibiting actions - trading and work - that are contrary to the concept of "Sabbath" (day of rest) in Abrahamic religions. Specific religious origin is Exodus 20:8 in Torah/Old Testament.

It's an important concept, as Wikipedia reminds us,

Observation and remembrance of Sabbath (Hebrew: שַׁבָּת‎‎ šabbaṯ) is one of the Ten Commandments (the fourth in the original Jewish, the Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestant traditions, the third in Roman Catholic and Lutheran traditions).

These laws aren't exactly new - they existed in Ancient Israel for Judaism based legal systems (and, ironically, are a major political hot topic in Israel today, lest you think Poland is somehow the only place this is an issue). The first recorded blue law in Christian land according to Wikipedia was set up as early as 538AD at the Third Council of Orléans; though they wouldn't be called "blue laws" till 18th century. USA had country wide Sunday work prohibition for most of its early history. Similarly (with slightly different religious color), countries with Sharia based laws have similar rules:

many Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh, do consider Friday a nonwork day, a holiday or a weekend; and other Muslim countries, like Pakistan, count it as half a rest day (after the Friday prayer is over). Jumu'ah attendance is strictly incumbent upon all free adult males who are legal residents of the locality.

To address specifically "why some countries and not the others", please note the predictable patterns - the countries with such laws all have very strong Abrahamic based religion, either socially dominant or even legally enshrined - pre-1950s USA, many other Christian countries in history, modern day Ireland, Sharia-based Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia; and Haredim-dominated parts of State of Israel (e.g. Jerusalem has total blue laws, whereas more secular Tel Aviv does not). Poland fits into Ireland model of societally strong Christian (Roman Catholic) influence, which is why those laws as an idea arose, as discussed in an earlier answer.

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    Yes, the laws are not so much about workforce as about the economic activity itself. IMO this can be desirable independent of the religious origins; in Germany (which is rather more secular than the US), shops cannot be open on sundays and I really like the quietness this brings about, in comparison with e.g. UK. Nov 27, 2017 at 15:15
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    @leftaroundabout - if it's not religious, why is it on Sunday instead of Saturday or Firday? (and yes, there are secular areas that enforce blue laws to remove shopping bustle - most notably, Bergen County, NJ in USA - but they are a minority, AND the laws' origin is still religious even if it stopped being so later on.
    – user4012
    Nov 27, 2017 at 15:20
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    @user4012, the key point is to have one day where most people have their day off. The Soviets tried staggered weeks, it didn't work. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_calendar Why not Saturday? Well, pretty soon church services would be on Saturday and all that accomplishes is effectively renaming the days.
    – o.m.
    Nov 27, 2017 at 17:33
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    @user4012 Obviously the origin of "Sunday" is religious, but I entirely agree with leftaroundabout about general desirability. Nov 27, 2017 at 18:21
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    @o.m. Matter-of-factly enough, the Sunday Trading laws in England & Wales allow shop owners to declare their Judaism to the local authority and thus change which Sabbath the restrictions apply on. legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1994/20/pdfs/ukpga_19940020_en.pdf
    – origimbo
    Nov 27, 2017 at 19:32

As long as the laws don't entirely forbid work on Sunday (so, for example, doctors and emergency workers can continue to work legally), you can attribute this to cultural traditions. And yes, in any country in which one religion dominates as prevalent, the practices of that religion become part of the culture rather then just a private matter.

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