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/ 24 Jan 2022

Is Thursday the new Friday? The four-day working week.

In a much-needed break from the usual ‘work from home’ messaging, a new working arrangement has been filling recent headlines. The ‘four day working week’.

The 6-month pilot scheme due to start in June 2022 will be managed by Oxford and Cambridge Universities and the UK Four Day Working Week Campaign (UKFWWC). The scheme will see a group of up to 30 companies trialling a working week of 32 hours or less worked over 4 days without any loss of pay to the employee.

James Collier

Senior Associate

Employment Law

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Why do campaigners want a four-day working week?

The UKFWWC identify some key benefits to the 4-day working week such as better work-life balance and role satisfaction for the employee; better productivity, recruitment, and retention for employers; and numerous environmental advantages such as a lower total carbon footprint for the role. The gold standard 4-day working week is a 32-hour working week worked over 4 days or less, with no reduction in pay. The silver standard 4-day working week consists of 35 working hours per week or less, worked over 4 days.

How much support is there for a four-day working week?

The UK Government has recently consulted on workers flexible working rights, the 4-day working week was part of that consultation. The outcome to the consultation and any legislative proposals for changes to the law are expected in the Employment Bill, the publication of which is significantly delayed by the government.

Both larger and smaller employers are expected to sign up to the UK trial of the 4-day working week, Canon Medical Research Europe being the largest to join so far. Some companies are expected to apply an optional approach to the 4-day aspect of a weekly work rota, whereby each employee is allocated a rota that is individual to them and tailored by the line manager and employee following consultation. To be part of the 4-day working week trial employers are expected to offer full time working hours or reduced work time of 32 working hours per week, worked over 4 days without any loss of pay to the employee.

Is Thursday the new Friday?

Despite the media frenzy and the flurry of social polls calling for a four-day week, recent UK research by ‘Be The Business’ reveals that only 7% of managers have launched the four-day week or decided to do so.

Employers instead may look to offer a range of flexible working options to staff outside of the 4-day working week trial parameters  such as, reduced working hours with reduced pay, or the offer to work a 4-day week whilst working condensed full time 35 hours per week or more (with no consequent loss of pay).

Such varied approaches may well be a recognition by employers that employees wish to avoid any loss of wages when considering or accepting a 4-day working week, particularly in today’s environment of increasing rates of inflation and significantly higher costs for food and fuel. The Social Market Foundation carried out a study in 2021 that found that four in five UK workers would be against a four-day working week if it meant taking a pay cut, see https://www.smf.co.uk/publications/a-question-of-time

Attracting and retaining talent – how Hanne & Co can help.

Employers may consider updating their flexible working policies in order to attract and retain the skilled and experienced workers that they require and joining the 4-day working week pilot trial may be the first step in that direction, more information can be found here: https://www.4dayweek.co.uk/pilot-programme

If your organisation would like advice on developing, updating or managing a flexible work policy, please give the Hanne & Co employment team a call on 020 7228 0017 or contact the author.

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