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Employment law for employees & Employment law for employers

Employers trial the 4-day working week

Some organisations will take on the challenge of the 4-day working week, aiming to discover whether employees will remain as productive with less time input.

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There is no doubt that the changes brought in by necessity during the Covid-19 pandemic are having a lasting effect on how employers and employees approach many aspects of working life. Hybrid working seems to be here to stay in some sectors, although some of the consequences of this remain controversial. Elon Musk recently declared in a memo to Tesla workers that ‘remote work is no longer acceptable’, and UK bosses are also said to be looking for novel ways to ‘tempt’ workers – who are enjoying the benefits of reduced commuting time and costs at a time when the cost of living is on the rise – back to the office.

Last week some 70 organisations – and thousands of workers – started to take part in a trial of a 4-day week working pattern in the UK. The six-month pilot study has been organised by the 4 Day Week Global Foundation, in partnership with think tank Autonomy and academics from Oxford, Cambridge and Boston College.

During the period of the pilot scheme, employees will work 80% of their normal weekly hours but receive 100% of their normal pay. Participants aim to discover whether employees can be as productive in terms of work output, but with 20% less time input. Advocates of the idea suggest that work tends to expand to fill the time available, and that it is possible to achieve the same results in less time simply by increasing focus, reducing small segments of wasted time and preparing more effectively. The increase to workers’ wellbeing provided by the extra day off is considered highly beneficial, with knock-on effects improving sickness absence, recruitment and staff retention.

It has been pointed out, however, that such an approach may not suit all organisations or professions and indeed it may not be appropriate in certain sectors such as in education settings. The healthcare sector has also been cited as an example where it is difficult to see how already overstretched staff could become more efficient with less working time.

The trial runs until November this year.

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Rhiannon Thompson

Trainee Solicitor

rhiannon.thompson@collyerbristow.com



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