Four day week is affordable for all

New report reckons most companies could pay employees same wages for a four day week and it could help the Covid recovery

Four day week graphic


A four day week is affordable for most firms. That’s the conclusion of a new report into the concept that is attracting more and more attention.

The coronavirus crisis has thrown a spotlight on how we work. Just over a year after Labour included a four day week in their 2019 manifesto the idea of reducing hours but not pay is being taken more seriously.

Think tank Autonomy has published a study titled ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. It sets out a ‘route map to the four day week’. They claim the research shows most companies could afford to pay their employees the same salary for just four days work.

Best case scenario

Researchers used profitability statistics drawn from a database of over 50,000 leading UK firms for the four day week report. They simulated best and worst case scenarios. Under the best-case scenario, a reduction in hours would be entirely offset by increases in productivity and price increases. Under the worst-case scenario, a four-day week with no loss of pay would be affordable for most firms once the initial phase of the Covid-19 crisis has passed. Some firms in high-labour cost industries could experience cash flow problems. But these would only occur if a four-day week was implemented too quickly.

The four day week report says the process of changing expectations and behavioural norms could be sped up by the creation of more bank holidays. A four day week in the public sector could support the UK’s long-term recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

Embrace change

The report recommends the public sector should lead the way in adopting shorter working hours. It also calls for trade unions to be given more powers to negotiate working time reductions in their specific sectors.

A Survation poll on behalf of Autonomy quizzed business leaders on their attitudes to the four day week. It found 79% are either ‘very open’ or ‘quite open’ to a four-day working week.

The report’s authors say, “The confluence of economic crisis, widespread job losses, and a private sector ready to embrace change make the introduction a four day week a huge opportunity. More jobs would be created, more people would enjoy a balance between work and leisure, and livelihoods would be protected. We argue, in summary, that a four day week with no loss of pay should play a central role in post-Covid economic and social policy.”

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