An ’80 per cent’ week for ‘100 per cent’ pay campaign is heading to Parliament causing many SMEs to wonder, will I have to convert to a four-day working week?
The results of the World’s biggest ever four-day working week pilot which took place in the UK have been revealed with almost every company that took part deciding to continue with a four-day week, with no loss of pay for workers.
The report published by the think tank Autonomy and leading academics at the University of Cambridge and Boston College in the US, revealed that of the 61 companies that entered the six-month trial, 56 have extended the four-day week, including 18 who have made it permanent.
The findings will be presented to MPs to urge politicians to give all workers in Britain a 32-hour week. So, what’s the likelihood of this happening?
Whilst the results are somewhat compelling, the six-month timeframe of the pilot is possibly not long enough. The vast majority are actually extending the trial period. This implies there is still some hesitation.
Many of the reported benefits of the four-day working week are only going to be truly identifiable long-term. Given the prolonged period of time we work for, from leaving education to retirement age for most, a six-month trial is not long enough to truly measure the impact.
“Businesses may be able to sustain it for 12 months but not for five or ten years, and, on the flip side, the positive impact that improved employee wellbeing can have will be best seen when you can compare staff absence, sickness rates and burnout over years.
Therefore, this pilot may not be sufficient enough for us to see a seismic shift to a four-day week, or a huge parliamentary buy-in.
Businesses for the four-day week
Some companies however will see the results and wish to introduce it within their company. For those, we encourage them to trial it first.
There are many practicalities to consider, from what day people won’t work to how you calculate holiday pay entitlement and an abundance of contractual changes which must be made with employee buy-in. Businesses can’t simply change a persons’ contractual terms unilaterally.
The execution of the trial must be well-advised too. It must be clear that it is a trial that may not be implemented permanently and contractual agreements or proof of employee agreement to this may be required so you can revert back to a five-day week should you wish to.
Businesses undecided on the four-day week
The four-day concept is designed to transform our working lives in order to benefit our health and wellbeing, as well as boost productivity. But there are others ways to achieve this.
Giving employees a true flexible working policy, which empowers them to better manage their lives around their work can give the same benefits, without having all the complexities of moving to a 32-hour week.
This includes increased productivity, improved employee wellbeing, better work life balance and even a reduced carbon footprint.
For a vast majority of businesses, this could be a more suitable solution that is, post-pandemic, more tried and tested.
Finally, whilst we await the Government response to the results of the pilot and subsequent campaign lobbying, MPs are already supporting employee flexibility in the workplace through its commitment to make flexible working the default.
It’s advised of multiple changes including the right for employees to request flexible working from the first day of employment and allowing employees to make two requests in any 12-month period.
Whilst primary and secondary legislation is still required to introduce the Government’s proposed changes, the commitment is there.