A four-day working week has become Labour policy. Confirming the party would back this move, John McDonnell announced at Conference 19 that the next Labour government will put in place the changes needed to reduce the average full-time hours to 32 a week within the next decade. A shorter working week with no loss of pay.
“I have always believed we should work to live, not live to work….the average full-time working week fell from nearly 65 hours in the 1860s to 43 hours in the 1970s….thanks to the labour movement”
The policy motion advocating a four-day week was put forward by CWU, and the bold proposal has been endorsed by the TUC.
Commenting on the announcement, the TUC general secretary said:
“It’s time for working people to share in the benefits of new technology. That’s why unions have been arguing for less time at work, more time with family and friends and decent pay for everyone.
“We welcome Labour’s commitment to move to a 32-hour week. Introducing more public holidays and enforcing safe limits on working hours is a sensible start. Unions already negotiate agreements on working time in many workplaces. With greater freedom to bargain across sectors, we can help deliver a flexible transition that meets the needs of workers and businesses across different industries.” Frances O’Grady.
Labour will introduce 4 new bank holidays to mark the patron saints of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. UK currently has eight public holidays compared to Spain (14), Sweden (11) and France (11). Only Mexico has less than UK with 7. India has 18.
A shorter working week will be healthier for our nation. “There is currently a huge problem of overwork that permeates our labour market. In 2017-18, 57% of all sick days were due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression, and 44% of these were caused by workload pressure alone. In the UK we work some of the longest hours in Europe and have the fewest national holidays. With more time to recover and recuperate, workers will perform better, enjoy their work more and inevitably take less sick leave.
Numerous studies on existing four-day week companies have shown that productivity relies not just on the sheer number of hours put in, but on the wellbeing, fatigue levels and overall health of the worker too” (1) ✅ Increased happiness and ✅ Improved wellbeing increases productivity whilst benefiting workers and their families.
A Green New Deal supports a 4 day week as there are environmental benefits such as ✅ reduced carbon emissions and ✅ decreased air pollution.
How will Labour will achieve its 4-day week goal?
The goal will be achieved over 10 years aimed at the national AVERAGE working hours. “We’ll end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive. As we roll out sectoral collective bargaining, we’ll include negotiations over working hours. We’ll require working hours to be included in the legally binding sectoral agreements between employers and trade unions. This will allow unions and employers to decide together how best to reduce hours for their sector. And we’ll set up a Working Time Commission with the power to recommend to government on increasing statutory leave entitlements as quickly as possible without increasing unemployment.” John McDonnell.
And don’t believe the Tory spin on this policy. Boris Johnson spoke to the house during his first Prime Minister’s Questions blustering about workers being worse off etc. It is clear he is used to sound-bite, grand-standing politics whereby he doesn’t take the time to absorb the details. Pay will remain the same. Perhaps he was worried that employers might be worse off? But those employers that are piloting this are reportedly most pleased with the results.
“A recent study by Henley Business School saw 250 firms participate in a four-day week, and nearly two thirds of these businesses saw productivity increase. The firms’ ability to attract and retain staff had improved, too.
Collectively, these firms now save £92bn each year, while 40 per cent of employees reported that they used the extra time to upskill
In conclusion, a shorter working week is not only good for workers, but also for businesses” (2)
Eastbourne Labour Party