More UK firms shifting to four-day week

One hundred British companies have now made permanent a four-day working week for their employees with no loss of pay, according to a new report.

4 - Day working week on a black city-center sign in front of a modern office building

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The report from the 4 Day Week Campaign came as a group of MPs and union leaders submitted a letter to government proposing an update to existing law to give workers the statutory right to request a four-day working week from their employers with no loss of pay.

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A workplace paradigm shift?

The hundred companies, which employ 2,600 staff, are in addition to the 70 British firms currently participating in the world's largest trial of the four-day week. The six-month trial is being coordinated by researchers at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, Boston College and the think-tank Autonomy.The 4 Day Week Campaign group is hoping that the announcement of the hundred companies already permanently adopting the shorter working week will be at the vanguard of a major shift in employers' thinking."Proponents of the four-day week say that the five-day pattern is a hangover from an earlier economic age," reported the Guardian."They argue that a four-day week would drive companies to improve their productivity, meaning they can create the same output using fewer hours. For some early adopters the policy has also proven a useful way of attracting and retaining employees."The two largest companies to sign up to a four-day week permanently are Atom Bank and global marketing company Awin, which each has about 450 staff in the UK.

Boost to wellbeing and retention

Adam Ross, CEO at Awin, described the adoption of the shorter working week as “one of the most transformative initiatives we’ve seen in the history of the company".He added: “Over the course of the last year and a half, we have not only seen a tremendous increase in employee wellness and wellbeing, but concurrently, our customer service and relations, as well as talent relations and retention also have benefited.”

Momentum to shorter working week gathering

Joe Ryle, UK Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said there was increasing momentum in favour of the adoption of the four-day week, even as companies braced themselves for a predicted recession.“We want to see a four-day week with no loss of pay become the normal way of working in this country by the end of the decade so we are aiming to sign up many more companies over the next few years,” he said.Meanwhile, in a letter to Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake, more than a dozen MPs and trade union leaders said the five-day week was "no longer conducive to the needs of the 21st century".Signatories to the letter included John McDonnell, the former Shadow Chancellor, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, and Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union.

Building on existing rights

The Independent newspaper pointed out that employees already have a right to request flexible working under the Flexible Working Regulations 2014. Ministers are now being urged to update the regulations to cover a four-day week with no loss of pay.According to the letter, the change in working patterns brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic "has shown us that the future of work can and should look different if we want to create a model that is better suited to the needs of families, women and carers".It adds: "Numerous studies from across the world have shown that a four-day, 32-hour working week with no loss of pay increases productivity and is good for the economy."Furthermore, it can offer us an opportunity to create a more flexible way of working that accommodates for caregiving responsibilities and strong family life."

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