Will the UK introduce a four-day working week? Trials have begun


Could a four-day workweek be on the cards? (Picture: Getty)

Polls have long shown the majority of the UK’s working people would prefer a four-day workweek.

It certainly sounds appealing: either reducing working hours altogether, allowing us to disconnect – or working a ‘compressed’ schedule across fewer days so a third weekend day can open up.

Following the pandemic shift to home-working, it’s been revealed that Scotland is launching a pilot scheme to see if the four-day workweek could… well, work.

So, what does it all mean? And is anything similar on the cards for England, Wales, or Northern Ireland?

Here’s all you need to know.

What are Scotland’s four-day work week trials?

Time and time again, swathes of workers have reported that longer working hours can be bad for your health – and that they’d choose flexible working over a pay rise any day.

Riverside offices in a city

The Scottish government has announced an early four-day work week trial (Picture: Getty)

And it seems the Scottish National Party (SNP) have taken note – and are currently designing a four-day workweek pilot scheme.

A fund of £10 million has been pledged by the SNP for office-based businesses to try out a shorter working schedule, without cutting worker pay.

Of the trial, a Scottish government spokesperson 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 £10million 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.’

As the trial has yet to properly begin, we don’t yet know when the results will be shared – but watch this space.

Would you prefer less time in the office? (Picture: Getty)

Already, think tank IPPR Scotland has urged the Scottish government to expand the trials further.

Rachel Statham, IPPR’s senior research fellow, said: ‘The Scottish government is right to be trialling a four-day working week… [it] could be a positive step towards building an economy hard-wired 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.’

Will the UK ever bring in a four-day work week?

As for the rest of us England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, it seems that only time will tell.

Right now, it doesn’t appear there are any government-led trials happening elsewhere in the UK.

And in September 2021, many openly wondered on Twitter why England and Wales weren’t following Scotland’s lead.

But some companies around the UK are already doing a four-day week of their own volition – and have been doing so for a while.

London-based lighting firm Elektra and Rendlesham tech firm CMG Technologies have both been operating longer working days (but shorter weeks) for several years.

CMG told The i that four longer days were definitely preferable to five shorter ones – with staff sick days dropping dramatically, and employee retention incredibly high.

Wondering where you can go to change your workweek for good? Campaigners 4 Day Week have a list of UK businesses who currently have a four-day work week.

Where in the world currently has a four-day work week?

No country in the world currently has a blanket, four-day workweek policy for 100% of workers.

As far as we can tell, that is. But a few countries are getting pretty close!

Iceland reported ‘overwhelming success’ when 1% of its workers trialled a shorter week from 2015 to 2019.

Reykjavik in Winter

Iceland is well known for its shorter workweek trial (Picture: Getty)

Workers reported a ‘dramatic increase’ in personal wellbeing – and businesses found they did not lose money, while productivity stayed the same or even improved.

Since the initial results were revealed, it’s believed 86% of Icelandic workers are now ‘working shorter hours or gaining the right to shorten their hours’ – without a cut in pay.

Generally speaking, other Nordic countries – like Finland and Denmark – are hailed as having an ideal approach to work-life balance.

Usually, this includes fewer hours – and a culture where it is expected you’ll leave the office on time – though naturally not for every role.

As for trails, Spain and New Zealand have both introduced (ongoing) pilot schemes for a 32-hour workweek.

The results have yet to be revealed. Watch this space.


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