IPPR calls for four-day week trials across more sectors in Scotland

The majority (80%) of working-age people in Scotland, across both manual and desk-based jobs, have said they would support a four-day working week without any loss of pay.

With so many people in favour of the change, and the potential benefits a shorter working week offers to a lot of different workers, think tank IPPR Scotland has called on government to include a variety of workers and employers across the economy in its upcoming shorter working time trial schemes.

Polling found 88% of workers would like to take part in the trials, and 80% said they felt it would have a positive effect on their wellbeing.

Rachel Statham, senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland, told HR magazine: "We're seeing a shorter working week adopted by workplaces across Scotland, from technology to hospitality. But for many employers, making the leap will be made easier by the reassurance offered through a government-backed scheme.

“It's time for government to come together with employers to find ways to work better in the future, starting by including a wide range of workplaces and industries in trials of a shorter working week."

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The main concern for employers, according to Gemma Dale, lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University Business School, is that a four-day week would come at a cost to productivity.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Our traditional contracts of employment are based on the payment of wages in return for a specific amount of working time, rather than a specific amount of performance or effort.

“If, with a four-day week proposal we are talking about allowing people to reduce their working week but not reduce their pay, leaders will need to be convinced that the same amount of productivity would be produced – albeit we often have very poor mechanisms for measuring performance in any event, relying most of the time on subjective measures.”

Almost two thirds (65%) of respondents to IPPR Scotland said they think a shorter working week would have a positive impact on the country’s productivity.

The report also asserted that a four-day week could help close the gender divide.

With women more likely to be in part time work, shorter working time across the board would enable men to take on a greater share of unpaid work, narrowing gender gaps in hours and pay. 

For HR to introduce a four-day week, Dale said a focused and well measured pilot would be needed to prove how effective it could be and how it supports company objectives.

However, she warned against the risk of work extensification, where employees work longer hours in fewer days to complete their work.

“What you are basically then introducing is compressed hours, not a four-day working week,” said Dale.

“Very careful implementation would be required to ensure that a four-day working week delivers on its promises, rather than simply making some of the familiar issues with work (such as work related stress or presenteemism) even more problematic.