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The Four Day Week, Movement or Revolution?

The UK have this month begun to participate in the first large-scale trial of introducing a 4-day working week after huge success was seen across the world in countries such as New Zealand and Iceland.

What makes this trial so unique is that companies signing up for the trial to reduce the working week are not proposing a reduction in salary to staff.

The idea

Historically, back in the 19th Century the average working week would sit around 100 hours per week, so the standard 40 hours today seems like a breeze in comparison to historical norms! That being said, the pandemic has had a deep residing impact on the psyche of many workforces which has led again, to a radical shift of how the working week should look.

This idea was first floated in the UK in 2019 by the Labour party however many thought the prospect of implementation as unlikely due to the working landscape at the time. However, after millions have now, and continue to, actively work from home, having circumvented and overcome a variety of working challenges, wide scale implementation of a four-day week looks almost like a natural next step.

The pandemic has served as a wakeup moment for both employer and employee alike. Many employers are noticing the positive culture and productivity change in allowing staff a remote or hybrid working lifestyle. As a result, employees are enjoying the fruits of a more balanced lifestyle and the freedom given to self-manage time and workload.

Giving your employees trust and independence has gone a long way in nurturing positive working relationships and both parties feel the benefits. In addition, employers also now have freedom to disband with heavy overheads such as the obligatory office rental and all the costs that go with running it.

Now as we navigate out of the pandemic landscape, many are embracing the concept of flexible working and seriously looking into the 4-day week for themselves.

Other changes are afoot too, with the rise of digital nomads travelling the world and vast swathes of women becoming self-employed, it finally feels like big business has recognised that people want to have a work life balance. The trial is a potential game changer for those who enjoy hobbies, have caring responsibilities or childcare commitments.

Is it too good to be true?

Despite all the advantages there has not been a 100% uptake of this new pattern of working particularly in Iceland where many businesses have reduced hours but some only marginally from 40 hours to 36 for example. There is still a long way to go before we see this being adopted on mass and without legislative change it is really going to be down to individual business owners to strive forward with this new idea and adopt it as standard before we see industry change on a large scale.

We are yet to see the results of the trial and once the metrics are in, we will see whether the trial yields positive outcomes. If it does, be sure that many advocates will come out of the wings to press hard for legislative change.

The government is not likely to make any radical changes in the first instance and will likely encourage employers to consider the benefits to switching over voluntarily to this working pattern if the trial is successful. There will naturally be legal implications around salary and entitlements if businesses decide to move forward but the extent of these implications are yet to be determined.

If you are considering implementing a four-day work week either permanently or on a trial basis, then the team at Real Employment Law Advice can help with your paperwork and procedures.

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

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