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Employment

Four-day work week trial sparks interest from ‘hundreds’ of businesses

Organisers hope the trial will demonstrate that a shorter working week is a win-win scenario for both employers and employees.

The organisation behind a new UK four-day work week trial says it has been “inundated” with hundreds of enquiries from businesses interested in trying out the model.

“The response to the pilot launch has been phenomenal,” Joe Ryle, campaign director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, told The Big Issue.

“We’ve been inundated with enquiries both from companies looking to sign up, and hundreds of companies signing up to the information sessions we’re holding. It shows how much of an appetite there is in the UK for a four day week,” he continued.

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The six-month trial was launched on Monday by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College, with around 30 British companies expected to take part.

Employees will be asked to commit to maintaining at least 100 per cent productivity, and in return, will have an extra day off with no cut to pay. 

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“This is a fantastic opportunity for organisations who want to be pioneers and trial a four-day week as a way of supporting and empowering workers, enhancing organisational productivity and having a positive impact on our society and the environment,” said Kyle Lewis, co-director of Autonomy.

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“Companies and organisations taking part will have unparalleled access to the expertise, tools and resources they will need to run a smooth and successful trial.”

Shortening the working week has been trialled by global giants including Unilever and Microsoft, with the latter reporting a 40 per cent rise in productivity in their 2019 trial in Japan. 

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However not all employers have found it’s worked for them. Science research foundation the Wellcome Trust scrapped plans to trial a four-day work week in 2019 for its 800 head office staff, finding it would be “too operationally complex”.

“Our expectation is that this will result in a win-win scenario for both workers and employees, and hopefully that will be clear once the results are through in about a year’s time,” Ryle said.

The British arm of camera company Canon became the latest business to trial a four-day work week without a pay cut. Online bank Atom Bank has also switched all staff to a four-day week with no pay cut, with the company seeing a 500 per cent increase in job applications.

Speaking to The Big Issue, leading doctor John Ashton this week called for the NHS to explore a four-day week through pilots across the country. The former president of the UK Faculty of Public Health argues shortening the working week could “reduce sickness absence, improve morale which would improve the quality of what people are doing when they are working”. 

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