Is the Four Day working week the solution to the recruitment crisis in the UK?

This week Victoria discusses whether the four-day week is a solution to the current recruitment crisis in the UK.

Ladyboss HR

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With a significant number of employers having adopted a four-day week model, and with a pilot about to begin in June 2022, I thought I would consider what is meant by the four-day week and some pros and cons associated with the concept.

Prior to the General Election in 2019, Labour pledged to reduce the full- time working week to 32 hours within the next decade with no loss in pay.  There has also been other countries trialling shortening the week such as Iceland and Belgium.  The Belgian government has recently announced the right for employees to request to work the same number of hours in a compressed four- day week.  If the Employer refuses the request they need to justify the refusal in writing.

According to the Henry Business School, 65% of businesses were operating a four-day week for some or all employees in a recent poll they conducted on 500 C-suite business leaders.  The research estimated that businesses were saving a total of £104bn – the equivalent of 2.2% of the UK’s annual turnover – through improvements in productivity, wellbeing and lower running costs.

The not-for-profit community 4 Day week global has made headlines this year through the running of pilot programmes with researchers and business owners around the world.  They are encouraging UK businesses to sign up to the six-month trial from now until September 2022.

What are the options of a Four Day working week?

The 4 Day week global view this as working shorter weekly hours for the same pay.  An alternative approach adopted by many organisations already is to compress the working week that an employee is contracted to across a shorter period of time.  For example, a 40- hour week would be completed across 4 days at 10 hours per day.

Advantages

Reduce the Organisation’s carbon footprint

Reducing the number of days in the office will reduce the commute to work and potentially the energy required for the office.

-Wellbeing Benefit

The most obvious advantage is the improvement in an employee’s work life balance.  Providing employees with a three- day weekend to spend more time with their family/friends and pursue hobbies etc.

-Employer of Choice

We are all suffering the pain of long, drawn out recruitment periods at present.  To become an early adopter of the four-day week would be a fantastic PR story.  It would suggest you are a progressive employer.

-Increase in productivity

If the four-day week leads to a more engaged workforce, then it is likely in turn this will increase productivity.

-Boost your Diversity profile

Those that have childcare or caring responsibilities may find this way of working more attractive.  It may therefore improve the diversity profile of your business.

Disadvantages

Difficult to monitor performance

It can be quite difficult for some businesses to measure performance.  It therefore may be a challenge for some to measure if the change is effective or actually detrimental to the business.

-Risk of burnout

If an Employer looks at a compressed working week then this may be quite challenging for those with childcare and care responsibilities on those said days.  Ironically, they may end up with less time with their loved ones than more.  The other concern is that an employee’s work may spill over to their ‘day off’ through the week and they end up logging on etc, which defeats the point of this change in working week.

-Working Time Regulations

If employees work compressed hours or take on a second job on the 3 days they are off, there may be some compliance considerations to take surrounding the Working Time Regulations.

-Conflict of Interest

An employee may try to take on a second job with the extra time they have.  This can be managed through an exclusivity of service clause in your contract, but nevertheless worth considering.

This is certainly an interesting consideration and something I may look to adopt as I expand our Operations team further.  There will be certain sectors that this will be very difficult to implement.  Currently, it appears that the gaming, fintech and design industry sectors have been early adopters of this concept.  I will be interested to see the results of the pilots and will keep you updated.

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