Europe

Four day working week trial: How it works, will UK adopt scheme – all you need to know

Election: Corbyn claims four-day week won't be forced on NHS

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The four-day working week has existed as a concept without implementation for decades. At present, only four countries have moved towards shorter weeks without writing them into law. But UK officials are now considering joining them, with a trial now underway.

What does a four-day working week look like?

Covid has changed the working landscape, permanently in some cases, towards flexibility.

With people now more likely to work from home or have mixed arrangements, the four-day trial will explore whether to take this further.

In action, it seeks to understand whether workers should have an additional day off.

The question behind the concept is whether people are more likely to work at 100 percent productivity for 80 percent of the current hours worked.

The pilot scheme – conducted by the think tank Autonomy, the Four-Day Week Campaign and university researchers – has businesses taking part award employees the same salary for fewer days.

When is the trial?

The four-day week research is ongoing in the UK, where 30 companies have signed up.

They will provide their employees with a full salary to work for four days over six months.

Each company will have a set of researchers accompanying them to measure productivity.

They will also look at worker wellbeing, impacts on the environment and gender equality.

The UK isn’t the only country where companies are experimenting with the concept, as the trial will span Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Will there be a four-day working week in the UK?

The four-day trial currently counts on businesses to embrace and test the change to working conditions themselves.

Once the trial delivers its findings, workplaces can decide whether to make it a permanent practice.

The Government could also legislate to cut down the working week, although Conservative ministers have not planned in this direction.

The closest the UK ever came to having the policy was when Jeremy Corbyn was leading the Labour Party.

He committed to introducing a four-day week for the UK ahead of the 2019 election.

Which countries have a four-day working week?

Other countries have welcomed the four-day working week concept, but none have passed it into law.

But more are experimenting, with Spain and Scotland joining the others this year.

Before they dipped their toes in the present study, one Nordic nation had already laid the groundwork.

One country, Iceland, has adapted four-day weeks to a significant portion of the national population.

Between 2015 and 2019, the nation ran two significant trials, reducing the working week from 40 hours to around 35.

The trials measured the impact on 2,500 employees, with the results published in 2021.

They reported “overwhelming success”, with employees becoming more productive and less stressed or burned out.

The results sparked a growing trend Iceland has since embraced.

Approximately 86 percent of Icelandic workers are now working on reduced hours or have the opportunity.

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