THE world’s biggest trial of the four-day work week is now underway, with more than 3,300 workers across 80 UK companies participating in the six-month experiment.
Companies from office-based software developers and recruitment companies to charities and small hospitality businesses are taking part in the trial that sees workers retain 100% of their wage, despite working 80% of their normal hours.
Laura Kearsley, partner and solicitor specialising in employment law at Nelsons, said: “With the study at the top of the agenda, employers may be considering what a shortened work week could mean for the future of their own working practices. For some, a four-day working week may seem like an impractical impossibility whereas others feel it’s an alternative that should have been implemented years ago.
Why is the study taking place now?
“Several similar studies have taken place in recent years, including a trial in Iceland that saw overwhelmingly successful results and has led to many employees working fewer hours without reduced pay.
“Similarly, the Belgian government recently announced that it has overhauled its employment laws, which includes the legal right for workers to make a request to work the same number of hours in a compressed four-day week. If an organisation refuses such a request, which it is permitted to do, it will have to justify its reasoning for the refusal in writing.
“The lead researcher on the UK project, economist and sociologist at Boston College, Juliet Schor, is basing the campaign on the idea that in any given workday, particularly in white-collar businesses, there are stretches of low productivity that can be cut without harming the business and would actually result in fewer sickness days and staff resignations. However, it has been acknowledged that this method may not work for every business and industry, with others also expressing their scepticism.”
What processes need to be followed?
“Before rolling out a new scheme, it’s important for employers to understand what they are trying to achieve by implementing a similar initiative, as well as what the potential impact may be on their business.
“First and foremost, employers should consider if their business is the right kind of company for a four-day week to work. Those that are client- or customer service-based are less likely to be suitable for this model. If a business is still to go ahead with a four-day work week, assessing which days each worker has off will be the next step, to accommodate a business that is required to be open five, six, or even seven days a week.
“If an employer goes ahead and trials it, it’s possible the change could turn into a permanent one. Overtly and consciously reserving the right to revert the policy and go back to the regular five-day week is an excellent measure to take to protect the business against employees should the new scheme not work out in the long term.
“It is also a good idea to hold a consultation with members of staff to canvass their views, opinions, and apprehensions. Additionally, a four-day policy will affect employment policies, contracts, and terms and conditions, such as annual leave entitlement, so it is important to highlight this during consultations to inform employees to determine their views.
“Businesses and employees will no doubt be keeping a close eye on the trial over the next six months to see if it will become the new way of working in the UK in the future.”
For more information, visit Nelsons website at www.nelsonslaw.co.uk/employee-rights/