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Government urged to expand four-day working week pilot

 

Workers believe the move will boost wellbeing and the economy

More than eight out of ten Scots would support the introduction of a four-day working week, a new poll has found.

A study for the think tank IPPR Scotland found that 80% of people believed that cutting their number of days at work – with no loss of pay – would have a “positive effect on their wellbeing”.

The survey also found that 88% would be willing to take part in trial schemes being set up by ministers at Holyrood.

Pilots are being staged in the wake of changes in working practices brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, with the Scottish Government having pledged a £10m fund for companies trialling a four-day week.

But IPPR Scotland such schemes should be expanded to include more sectors of the economy, people working in non-office-based jobs, those who do shift work and part-time employees.

The think tank argued that unless lower-paid sectors were included in the pilot, along with those who may find making the shift to a four-day week more difficult, the trial schemes may not properly test the impact of such a switch.

However, the poll – for which 2,203 people aged between 16 and 65 were questioned – also found that almost two-thirds (65%) believe a shorter working week could boost Scotland’s productivity.

Rachel Statham, senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government is right to be trialling a four-day working week because today’s evidence shows that it is a policy with overwhelming public support, and could be a positive step towards building an economy hardwired for wellbeing.

“But any successful transition post-Covid-19 must include all kinds of workplaces, and all types of work. The full-time, nine-to-five office job is not how many people across Scotland work – and shorter working time trials need to reflect that reality.

“So we must examine what shorter working time looks like from the perspective of shift workers, those working excessive hours to make ends meet, or those who currently have fewer hours than they would like to have.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The pandemic has served to intensify interest in and support for more flexible working practices, which could include a shift to a four-day working week.

“Reductions in the working week might help sustain more and better jobs, and enhance wellbeing.

“We are in the early stages of designing a £10m pilot that will help companies explore the benefits and costs of moving to a four-day working week. The pilot will allow us to develop a better understanding of the implications of a broader shift to a shorter working week across the economy.”

Roz Foyer, Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary, said: “Moving workers to a four-day week, without loss of pay, would bring a wide range of benefits.

“We welcome the recommendation that the Scottish Government should expand its four-day week pilot to include more sectors, including non-office-based jobs and those who work different shifts.

“A four-day week should be for everyone, and research into it should take into account workers other than nine-to-five office workers.

“If Scotland is serious about creating a wellbeing economy, then a four-day week is a key way to make progress towards it.”

 

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