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Four-day working week | Trial results are in

The results of a pilot four-day working week have been overwhelmingly positive with most companies extending the four-day week policy and some adopting it permanently.

The trial studied a range of UK companies and employees piloting a four-day work week with no reduction in pay during a six month period starting in June 2022. 

The campaign aims to shift the norms of work culture from a 40-hour five-day week to a 32-hour, four-day week. 

A total of 61 companies took part across various sectors in the UK including charities, financial service firms, retailers and even a fish and chip shop.

The size of the companies varied with one company employing around 1,000 staff with 66% having 25 or fewer employees.  22% of the firms have 50 or more staff.

The report highlighted:

  • Revenue stayed approximately the same (rising slightly by 1.4% over the trial)
  • Revenue was up 35% in comparison to the same period in 2021
  • Improvements in hiring
  • Less absenteeism
  • Less resignations.

The no reduction in salary is a main part of the scheme allowing employees to have more of their life back and establish a better work-life balance.

For some employees, the extra day off was more important than pay: 15% said no amount of money would induce them back to a five-day week. Some staff had Wednesdays off, while others had a three-day weekend policy. 

One company who took part in the pilot said “rethinking the way the organisation does its job had been crucial.  There’s no way that you can reduce your working  hours and maintain productivity and not do things differently.  Sometimes flexibility was needed from staff to attend essential meetings on their non-working day, eg. but surveys of employees during the pilot had produced a resounding result.

Employers will need to consider:

  • Terms and Conditions:  Moving to a four-day week will be a change in terms for employees who work full-time.  Employee consent will therefore be required and consideration should also be given to whether the change will be subject to a trial period. 
  • Annual leave allowances:  Consideration will need to be given to annual holiday entitlement.  Will this be prorated in line with the new working hours and days?  Overtime and TOIL policies will also need to be updated.
  • Bank holidays:   Employers will need to consider whether bank holidays will be in addition to the usual day off associated with the four-day week or count as the day off that particular week.
  • Non-working day:  In any circumstances where an employee may be required to work on their non-working day, it is essential that communication is clear as to whether this would trigger overtime/TOIL policies.  Employers may also wish to consider any limitations for employees on their non-working day eg. can they carry out other paid work?
  • Part-time employees:  Consideration needs to be given to the working days of part-time workers.  If a full-time employee is reducing their working days with no reduction in pay, what happens to part-time employees already working less days?  Part-time employees have statutory protection against less favourable treatment on the basis of their part-time status.  An equivalent offer could be suggested with a prorated reduction in days with no loss of pay or current hours with a prorated pay increase. 

There is no denying the results are a major breakthrough in the largest trial of the four-day week.  Workers experienced less stress and burnout as a result of reduced anxiety and being able to juggle work, caring responsibilities and social commitments more easily, the results showed. There was also better job retention and a substantial reduction in sick days taken during the trial period from June to December 2022.

The UK government however has so far not shown any enthusiasm for the idea with Conservative peer, Howard Leigh, has said the policy would have a “devastating effect” because it would be “difficult for colleagues to work effectively if some are just not available for 20% of the time”.

The 4 Day Week Campaign has said it would now like to see many more employers take the plunge, and is lobbying the government to encourage change legislating to give staff the right to request a four-day pattern.

For full details of the results and data, please click here

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