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13th October, 2022

Can the 4-day working week be successful?

Earlier this year, the UK launched a six-month trial of the 4-day working week. The trial included 70 organisations and will be conducted over a six-month period. The employees will work 80% of their normal working hours but will still receive 100% of their normal pay.

Icelandic Study

Between 2015 and 2019 Iceland conducted a trial to determine what impact reduced hours had on wellbeing and productivity of employees. The study itself involved 1% of the population and was conducted in a wide variety of employment sectors. The UK study is largely based off this, however, the Icelandic study reduced working hours, e.g. workers’ hours from a 40-hour week to a 35- or 36-hour week as opposed to a 4-day working week as is being trialled in the UK.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of a 4-day working week?

Unemployment is at a record low and there is significant competition in the job market to fill higher-skilled roles. As a result, employees can be more selective about where they want to work, and what perks and benefits the employer has to offer.

Post-covid, employees value the ability to work flexibly, and many vacant job roles are now being offered as hybrid roles. Therefore, an option for an employee to reduce their working hours to 80% whilst maintaining 100% pay would no doubt be an attractive proposition to prospective candidates.

A reduction in working hours will ultimately reduce workload and capacity, therefore this may lead to an increase in pressure and ultimately stress on employees.

Employers may also have to manage and facilitate a more complex pattern of working.

Can it work?

We await the results of the UK study, with the 6-month trial period set to end in November 2022. The Icelandic report did suggest that productivity wasn’t impacted despite the reduction in working hours, and it enabled employees to have a greater work-life balance.  

As an employer, if you are considering adopting the 4-day working week, this would mean a change to the employee’s terms and conditions of employment, as such, this may require a formal consultation process.

If you require advice about the matters discussed in this article or you have an employment related matter you would like to discuss with our employment team, please get in touch by completing the form below.

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