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Four day working week imminent?

By June 25, 2020July 8th, 2020Current Affairs
4 Day Work Week | HR Solutions | Employment Law

Could our working week soon be cut to four days? A group of cross-party MPs have written a letter to the government asking for just that. The group claim that shortening the working week to four days could be the solution to helping the country recover from the economic impact of Covid-19.

The argument for cutting the working week from five days to four is not new. In 2018, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 8 in 10 workers wanted to reduce their working time in the future, while 45% would like to see a four-day working week. Following these findings, the TUC recommended that the UK consider how the country could eventually move to a four-day week. This was echoed by the Labour party who, in the 2019 general election, outlined a plan for a 32-hour full-time working week.

Letter to government

MPs across all parties are now urging the government to give serious consideration to a four-day week in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, MPs are calling for a reduction in working hours which, it claims, will provide more opportunities amidst growing unemployment levels. Signatories of the letter include Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, SNP MP Mhairi Black, Labour MP Zarah Sultana and Communication Workers’ Union leader Dave Ward and Ian Waddell, general secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions.

Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions

The group believe that a four-day week could prove to be a powerful tool in helping the nation recover from the crisis and urge the chancellor to set up a commission to explore the possibilities of introducing a four-day week.

In Scotland, a new ‘Futures Commission’, has already begun looking into introducing similar measures as part of a series of measures to help Scotland recover from the pandemic. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, prime minister Jacinda Arden has also raised the prospect of introducing a four-day working week to boost domestic tourism and help stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, some firms like Microsoft Japan have already been trialling a four day week and after just one month, it found that productivity rose by 40%.

Great Depression

The letter from MPs makes reference to the impact a reduction in working hours had following the Great Depression in the 1930s. It says: “Shorter working time has been used throughout history as a way of responding to economic crises. They were used as a way of reducing unemployment during the Great Depression of the 1930s, which led to the normalisation of the eight-hour day and the 40-hour week.”

It adds: “Work patterns have already been dramatically altered as a result of the pandemic and we believe the time is now right to explore putting a four-day, 30-hour working week (or any equivalent variation) front and centre – including protections for those on low incomes – as the country unites behind building back better out of this crisis.”

A new way of working

In the letter, the MPs also highlighted that UK workers had already shown their support for a four-day week before the start of the pandemic. “Millions of workers have now had a taste of working remotely and on different hours. It’s in no one’s interests to return to the pressure and stress that people were under before this pandemic,” it says.

With the laws surrounding flexible and remote working currently under review and the future of the traditional office set to change dramatically, we can be sure that we are all about to enter a brand-new way of working.

Further information

For more articles relating to the effects of the current pandemic visit the HR Solutions’ dedicated page ‘Coronavirus Advice and Guidance for Employers’.

HR Solutions are here to provide you with support and advice on any employment related issues; to find out more call us on 0844 324 5840 or contact us online.


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