Scottish government urged to expand four-day week trials

Trials for a four-day work week in Scotland should be expanded after polling revealed overwhelming support for the idea, experts say.

Research for the think-tank IPPR Scotland found 80 per cent of people believed cutting their number of days at work – with no loss of pay – would benefit their wellbeing.

The survey also found that 88 of people would be willing to take part in trial schemes being set up by Holyrood ministers. Some 2,203 people aged between 16 and 65 were questioned.

Two-thirds of respondents (65 per cent) said they believed a shorter working week could boost Scotland’s productivity.

Pilots are being set up following changes in working practices caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with the SNP having pledged a £10m fund for companies trialling a four-day week.

But IPPR Scotland said the Scottish government should expand such schemes to include more sectors of the economy, so people in non-office based jobs, shift workers and part-time employees can take part.

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 might not properly test the impact of such a switch.

Rachel Statham, a 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.”

The Independent has contacted the Scottish government for comment.

Research has repeatedly shown support among workers and even bosses for shorter hours.

A 2019 YouGov poll found three-quarters of people supported the idea in the UK, while a years-long trial in Iceland was dubbed an “overwhelming success”. The pilot boosted productivity and wellbeing, and led to staff nationwide being able to negotiate more flexible or shorter hours.

Another piece of research from 2019, by Henley Business School, found most businesses that employed a four-day week got more out of their workers, who were also happier and took fewer sick days.

Additional reporting by Press Association


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