Employment

A lifetime of summer Fridays: What is the nine-day fortnight?

Summer is on the horizon - is it time to clock off while the sun is still high in the sky?

Friday afternoon chilling in the park

What were Friday afternoons made for? Image: Pexels

You’ve heard of the four-day week, now meet its slightly less fun, but still a good time, younger brother: the nine-day fortnight. 

Calls to reduce working hours have been building since the pandemic, as workers across the world look for more flexible ways of working to improve their mental and physical health after Covid forced us to ask: ‘what’s it all for?’

While slightly less productive Friday afternoons are nothing new, more companies are introducing formal policies to allow staff to head off while the sun is still high in the sky, which could pave the way for a permanent shift. 

Campaigners say that a reduction in working hours brings a whole host of benefits – tackling unemployment, improving health and wellbeing, and boosting recruitment. As a result of having to work fewer days, employees have a longer time to recuperate before returning to work and have more time to spend with families and friends.

What does a nine-day fortnight mean?

A nine-day fortnight does what it says on the tin, allowing employees to work nine days in a fortnight rather than the traditional 10. This could mean taking an extra full day off every other week, or working a half day every Friday. 

Summer Fridays that allow employees to finish work between 12 and 3.30 in the afternoon have shortened the working week, but a true nine-day fortnight would mean taking a full half day off (3.5 to four hours) with no reduction to pay. 

Which companies have switched to a nine-day fortnight?

At cosmetics company L’Oréal, “summer Fridays” start at 3pm, The Times reports.  Employees at online fashion outlet Asos also clock off then, while half-day Fridays are offered to staff at Cadbury’s parent company Mondelez International, and at the sportswear giant Nike.

Kellogg’s, of breakfast cereals and snacks, is allowing office-based and sales staff to finish work from midday on a Friday from May to September.

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“We’ve been offering summer hours for 20 years now because we know it works. By giving our people half a day for themselves each week, it allows them to recharge and unwind,” said Chris Silcock, head of Kellogg’s UK.  

“Not only is this great for people’s mental and physical wellbeing, but it also leads to increased productivity and motivation.’’

And in Australia, one of the country’s largest accounting firms, Grant Thornton, recently brought in a nine-day fortnight without any cuts to staff pay to respond to skill shortages. Grant Thornton is thought to be one of the first firms that operates through billable hours, as is common in the accounting and legal industry, to reduce working hours, the Australian Financial Review reports. 

What’s better: a nine-day fortnight or four-day working week? 

A nine-day fortnight could be a compromise between employees looking to reduce their working hours by switching to a four-day working week, and employers nervous about taking the leap. 

However, there is a key difference between the two models, aside from the obvious difference in working time. The 4 Day Week Campaign emphasises that employees must not be required to increase their hours or workload to make up for their extra day off, whereas some companies that offer summer Fridays expect their employees to make up their hours during the week.

“Pressure for a four-day week has been building and it’s resulting in companies looking at different ways of doing business,” Joe Ryle, the director of the 4 Day Week Campaign said in The Times

“Companies that aren’t quite ready to go the full hurdle are introducing nine-day fortnights and summer working hours. Seasonal hours give companies the opportunity to experiment with shorter working hours in a much smaller time period so workers can adjust and get used to it.”

The UK recently held the world’s largest ever trial of the four-day working week with no cut to pay. With 61 companies taking part, the results found that wellbeing improved dramatically for staff, while business productivity in nearly every case was either maintained or improved.

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