Spain and India are adopting a 4 day working week in the wake of Covid-19 - could the UK be next?

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 2:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th February 2021, 2:35 pm
Proponents of the four day week suggest it could save jobs in the wake of the pandemic (Photo: Shutterstock)

Both the Spanish and Indian governments have announced plans to introduce a four day working week for employees.

Spain hopes that the introduction of a four day week will help keep millions in jobs, with firms who cut their working week to 32 hours without loss of pay given financial backing from the government.

In India, meanwhile, the government is looking at finalising new labour codes which would allow firms to introduce a four day week.

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Unlike Spain, Indian employees working a four day week would see their daily hours extended, with shifts of up to 12 hours. Employers won't be forced to introduce a four day week, but the plans are designed to offer greater flexibility to both employers and workers.

Will the UK implement a 4 day working week?

Calls for a four day working week are growing across the world, with proponents arguing that it makes workers more productive through a better work-life balance.

In 2019, Microsoft trialled a four day working week in its Japan office, finding that productivity improved by 40 per cent, while the company saved on printing and electricity consumption, too.

Campaigners in the UK hope that the move from Spain could prompt the UK to look into a four day working week.

During the 2019 election, Labour suggested a policy of a 32 hour working week without loss of pay, to be introduced during the next 10 years.

Think tank Autonomy published a report at the start of February making the case for a shorter working week in the wake of the Covid pandemic, arguing that such a move could help to mitigate trends of "job polarisation, the explosion of precarious forms of work, gendered inequalities, stagnating productivity growth, the threat (and promise) of automation and the substantial inequality that exists in our society".

It suggests that a four day working week could also help prevent mass job losses post-pandemic, by allowing bosses to keep more people in work.

Their suggestion is a 'Shorter Working Time Subsidy Scheme', in which firms would cut staff down to 80 per cent of usual hours, paying 100 per cent of their usual wage. In the first year, 20 per cent of the wage would be covered by the state, with the subsidy reduced by four per cent over the following five years.

Though the initiative would cost around £9 billion per year, the think tank suggests the Government would save money in the long run through the initiative.

Already, some UK businesses have switched to a four day week or more flexible modes of working, but the Government is yet to make any clear stance or movement on a widespread rollout of a four day week.