Over the past few months, the idea of a four-day work week has proven popular amongst politicians and employers. The Labour Party recently revealed it had commissioned a study on the impact of a four-day working week for public sector workers while Irish company the ICE Group said it would be introducing this change in the belief that staff will be more energised and productive after an extended weekend. Could this therefore be a sign of the times?
A recent YouGov poll found that three-quarters of UK workers support a four-day working week; they believe they could complete their week’s work in four days to the same standard that they currently do in five days.
There is clearly a demand for a shorter working week but, practically, how can businesses make this transition?
Is a four-day work week suited to your organisation?
If your clients/customers expect you to be available five days a week, consider whether this change can realistically be implemented.
What will the impact be on your workforce?
Think about whether this is something your workforce want or do they really just want more flexibility? UK charity “Wellcome Trust” decided against this change as some employees were worried about their workload being compressed into four days, while others were concerned it would affect their childcare arrangements.
What will the financial impact be on your organisation?
A move to a four-day week without loss of pay may depend on the financial position of your organisation. An experiment carried out in Sweden found staff costs rose considerably as more people had to be hired to fill gaps in work rotas. However, “productivity” may be a key factor to consider here. Glasgow-based company “Pursuit Marketing” not only saw a 30% increase in productivity when it switched 120 people to a four-day week in 2016, but it also saw unexpected cost savings as it no longer needed external recruiters to hire staff as so many people wanted to work for them.
If you decide to swap from a five-day to a four-day week, you’ll be changing your employees’ terms of employment.
As with other contractual changes, you cannot do this unilaterally as an employer. Do, therefore, be sure to consult and engage with your employees to gauge whether they might be amenable to this before you take any firm steps. If you intend to keep pay the same (i.e. five days’ pay for four days’ work), there might be less resistance. If you intend to reduce pay pro-rata, there might well be more resistance.
Should the four-day week not work, you might have difficulties in persuading employees to swap back to a five-day week.
There might therefore be some merit in “trialling” the four-day week first – and ensuring that everyone involved is clear that the trial is only a temporary “test and see” measure.
Trialling the change, would also enable you to measure client and staff satisfaction, productivity levels and any financial implications to ascertain whether the change works for your organisation in practice.
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If it “works”, you can then take steps to make the change permanent. If it doesn’t, the fact that the change was only temporary means you’ll be able to revert back to your “usual” five day week, once the trial period has ended. If you would like to discuss anything further, please contact Employment Solicitor, Heena Kapadi, on T: 0161 358 0540 or E: [email protected]