Firms to trial four-day working week as campaigners hope for Government backing

UK businesses are being invited to take part in a major trial of a four-day working week, as campaigners hope to persuade the new Labour Government to back its ideas for a shift in how people work.

The six-month pilot will begin in November and also experiment with different forms of flexibility such as compressed hours.

The 4 Day Week Campaign calls for Britain to adopt a four-day working week and reduce maximum working hours from 48 hours to 32 hours per week.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar meet with fathers at Broxburn Family and Community development centre in Livingston to talk about Labour’s paternity offer, while on the General Election campaign trail.
Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner has previously asked businesses to consider trialling a four-day working week, suggesting it could boost productivity (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Crucially, employers would have to make sure there was no reduction in wages for their employees.

Some 61 companies took part in one of the world’s biggest trials two years ago, with 54 keeping the shorter week once the scheme ended, the campaign group said.

This year’s pilot could target around 50 businesses, and will include those keen to try other forms of flexible working besides making the week shorter.

This could mean a flexible start and finish times for their staff, a nine-day fortnight, or compressed hours – meaning staff work full-time hours but over fewer days.

The results of the experiment will be presented to the Government in summer next year.

Campaigners are hoping that the new Labour Government could be more receptive to changing working patterns and introducing a four-day week.

Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner has previously asked businesses to consider trialling a four-day working week and suggested that it could boost productivity for some.

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband has also written in support of the shorter working week, while Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds is believed to have expressed an interest in the policy.

Two companies have already confirmed their participation in this year’s trial, including Welsh housing association Bron Afon Community Housing.

Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said hundreds of British businesses and one local council – South Cambridgeshire District Council – had adopted the four-day week with no loss of pay for staff.

“With a new Labour Government, change is in the air and we hope to see employers embracing this change by signing up to our pilot,” he said.

“The nine-five, five day working week was invented 100 years ago and is no longer fit for purpose. We are long overdue an update.”

The campaign group is working with flexible working consultancy Timewise to coordinate the pilot, which will also include training and workshops for the firms taking part.

Claire Campbell, the chief executive of Timewise, said: “We hope to see more employers from sectors with site-based, shift-based workers sign up because this is where innovation is needed most.”