About 100 years ago the work week went six to five days earlier.
Several countries have successfully tested the four-day system over the past six years, and now Scotland is trying it out.
Will the UK introduce a four-day work week?
The four-day work week is tested in the UK – employees get equal pay for eight hours less work.
The pilots are being launched across Scotland following a drastic change in the way the British work during the COVID pandemic.
It is unclear whether England, Wales and Northern Ireland will also test it, but campaigners are urging the government to try it.
Many pointed to the “huge success” of the largest four-day work week trial ever held in Iceland from 2015 to 2019.
According to one analysis, workers were found to be less stressed and had better work-life balance, while employers did not see any significant drop in productivity or service delivery.
The experiment initially concerned only a few dozen public sector workers who were members of trade unions.
But that expanded to 2,500 public and private sector workers – representing one percent of the country’s workforce – as the lawsuit progressed.
Trial participants included police, health care workers, teachers, vendors and city workers.
Trial victories with similar pilots in New Zealand and Spain prompted people to pressure them in Britain.
A study showed that introducing a four-day work week could increase department store sales by up to £58 million, helping to bolster their case.
Research has found that giving people an extra day on the weekend not only gives people more time to shop, but can also increase spending on hobbies, gardening, and DIY.
However, in June, the government rejected suggestions that Britons could benefit from reducing working hours as the “new normal” after the pandemic.
What happens in Scotland for the four day work week test?
The pilot projects are being put in place after a change in work practices brought on by the pandemic, with millions of people working from home and carrying out their responsibilities.
The Scottish National Party has pledged a £10 million fund for businesses testing the four-day week.
Reduced hours would not need to be taken every week, instead translating to a few hours per day or accumulated over a month.
Several companies have already switched to the four-day week, including Glasgow-based packaging company UPAC Group and construction contractor Oroco in Edinburgh.
A Scottish government spokesman said: ‘The pandemic has led to increased interest and support for more flexible working practices, which could include a change to the four-day work week.
“Cutting the work week can help retain more and better jobs and improve well-being.
“We are in the early stages of creating a £10 million pilot project that will help companies explore the benefits and costs of moving to a four-day work week.
“The pilot will give us a better understanding of the implications of a broader shift in the economy towards a shorter work week. “
More than eight out of ten Scots support the proposal, saying that reducing their number of working days – without loss of pay – would have a ‘positive effect on their well-being’.
According to research by think tank IPPR Scotland, 88 per cent are said to be willing to participate in testing programs set up by ministers in Holyrood.
But IPPR Scotland said the government needed to expand the tests to include more sectors of the economy, people working in non-administrative jobs, working shifts and part-time workers.
Rose Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said: “There will be a range of benefits from moving workers to a four-day week without loss of pay.
“If Scotland is serious about building a wellness economy, a four-day week is an important way forward.”
Which countries have a four day work week?
The four-day work week, or compressed work schedule, has been tested in several countries, with some introducing it more permanently.
But no country has fully introduced it as a standard.
As a result of a successful trial, about 85 percent of workers in Iceland will be able to work four days instead of five with equal pay.
Finland has arguably come even closer since the adoption of the Working Hours Pact in 1996.
It was passed so that workers had the right to start or end three hours earlier.
And Finland’s prime minister last year revealed his intention to start a four-day week with six-hour days.
Sanna Marin, who became the world’s youngest PM at the age of 34, said a flexible setup could be the “next step” to a modern, healthy life.
Elsewhere, government officials benefited from a four-day work week in The Gambia in 2013.
Hours were limited from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Friday was a day of rest for prayer and agriculture.
However, President Adama Barrow abandoned the program on Friday, opting for a half-day job.
New Zealand estate planning firm Perpetual Guardian adopted a four-day working week in 2018 after a successful trial.
And employees at Unilever’s New Zealand office are participating in a bigger trial by the end of 2021.
Microsoft employees in Japan took advantage of a three-day weekend trial in 2019, leading to 40% productivity gains and 23% power savings.
In Spain, the government has agreed to introduce a 32-hour three-year work week without reducing workers’ wages.
A handful of businesses in the UK have switched to reduced hours since 2018, including Simply Business Call Center and Aisle Restaurant in Edinburgh, but nothing has been officially done by the government.
Britain’s Labor Party has adopted a 32-hour full-time work week as official party policy and has pledged to move the country there by 2029 if it wins the 2019 general election.
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