National trial of 4-day working begins this week

More than 70 companies began a six month pilot on 6 June to explore the feasibility of 4-day working, which involves giving workers 100% of their pay for 80% of their hours, while maintaining their previous output.

Although compressed hours – ie fitting five days’ worth of hours into four days – is also on the flexible working menu, this new approach focuses on empowering workers to work fewer, but more productive hours.

Evidence shows that this can be made to work. According to a report published earlier this year by Henley Business School 2/3rds of employers adopting a four day week reported a reduction in costs while maintaining the quality of work being produced and significantly improving staff wellbeing and engagement. However, it does not necessarily follow that 4-day working is easy to implement, or will be right for all organisations. As Associate Professor Dr Rita Fontinha puts it in the report: “any company considering introducing a four-day week policy should start slow”.

Issues to grapple with at the outset include how to assess productivity, how rostering will work to cover the full working week and whether the model is workable for all roles. In addition, the contractual basis of any new arrangements needs to be considered, and comparable measures should be put in place for employees who are already working part time.

Employers – particularly in sectors where other forms of flexibility are proving difficult to implement – will be watching the outcome of the pilot with interest. Although there have been similar trials in other parts of the world – notably trials in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 – this is the first time that a four day working week has been piloted on a national basis in the UK.

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