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Is the UK nearing a four-day working week?

Date: 07/05/2022 | Written By: Karl Hodson

UK’s four-day working week pilot programme

The UK could be close to implementing a standard four-day working week if a pilot scheme involving more than 3,000 workers brings positive results. The scheme has been developed by Oxford and Cambridge universities, along with several campaign groups.

Around 60 firms across a range of industries, and with differing operational needs, are taking part in the trial, which runs from June to December 2022. Notably, workers will receive the same pay for working four days instead of five.

Not the same as compressed hours

A ‘compressed hours’ working arrangement typically involves working the same number of hours over four days instead of five. The four longer days can create additional pressure and stress for workers, however, as they attempt to complete the same amount of work in a shorter time period.

Arguments for and against a new 32-hour working week have been put forward in the past, but the Covid-19 pandemic brought working practices into sharp focus and has been the catalyst for significant change.

So as the UK edges closer to a four-day working week as standard, what are the implications for all involved?

Potential benefits of a four-day week

A four-day working week could benefit employees, businesses, and the economy as a whole. Greater job satisfaction and improved work/life balance are just two key benefits for employees.

A happier workforce is likely to lead to increased productivity, and reduced recruitment costs for employers as staff retention improves. Ultimately, businesses would expect higher profit levels as a result of these improvements.

The benefits to the planet of fewer work-related journeys are also clear. Lower carbon emissions would help us towards critical environmental targets, but could a shorter working week be incorporated by all businesses?

Is a four-day working week appropriate for all industries?

It’s possible that these new working practices could introduce complications for some businesses, in relation to staff rotas or work scheduling, for instance, particularly for those that open seven days a week.

Some firms may need to hire additional staff to cover a new three-day weekend, resulting in higher employment costs. Given the range of businesses participating, though, the six-month pilot programme should provide a deeper insight into potential roadblocks. 

The four-day working week encourages firms to work smarter, and reduces the risk of staff absence through sickness. Essentially, it reverses the ‘traditional’ view that higher productivity stems from working longer hours, so how near are we to a four-day week?

Differing opinions

Opinions differ as to whether it will work for all businesses, and it remains to be seen whether a four-day working week can be implemented across the board. The global pandemic fast-tracked a movement that was already underway, however, and whatever the outcome of the trial, 2022 is another pivotal year.

If you want to know more about the four-day working week pilot programme, please visit AHR Consultants on Practice Portfolio.

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