4 Day Working Week: Happy ThursYAY

4 Day Working Week: Happy ThursYAY

The 4 day working week: often mooted but seemingly never actually implemented. The idea is a source of scornful derision for some – remember Boris Johnson suggesting Jeremy Corbyn must have found a money tree for daring to suggest it? But, for others, it’s the way forward, the first step in the march towards a kinder and more modern form of capitalism that better balances financial and personal growth. 

Well, it’s reared its mythical head again because a new report commissioned by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales has called on the Welsh government to give it a whirl. The report, A Future Fit for Wales, says the implementation of a 4 day working week in the Welsh public sector would create 37,000 jobs and cost the Welsh government £1 billion. This initial outlay would be countered, the report says, by the positive impact the reduced hours would have on the workforce’s physical and mental well-being, therefore reducing NHS outgoings.

It’s a broadly popular idea, with 62% of the Welsh public saying they would ideally choose to work 4 days or less and the move would reduce carbon emissions by 117,000 tonnes (equivalent to removing 1.3 million cars from the road annually).

The report challenges the traditional objections to the idea of a 4 day working week:

“It will reduce productivity” – No, says the report, pointing to Microsoft Japan who implemented a 4 day week which resulted in a 40% increase in productivity.

“It’s a luxury for rich companies” – Wrong, says the report. Most short and long term reductions in hours have been responses to financial crises that have forestalled potential inequality and economic damage.

“Five days of work will end up being squeezed into 4” – Nonsense, says the report. This can be avoided by a number of strategies including the removal of non-essential day to day activities like meeting about meetings.

The report will have its critics, not least Boris Johnson one imagines, but the reality is that until a 4 day working week is implemented on any kind of mass scale and across a lengthy time frame, we will never really know if it will work. A 4 day work week trial in the Welsh public sector might provide an indicator, but to undo the 5 day week, which represents over 100 years of labour practice, the governments of Wales and the UK will need to be bolder.

This post was written by Jack Dooley, Trainee Solicitor at didlaw.