Employment

Scottish government urged to expand 4 day working week trial

Think tank IPPR Scotland calls for pilot to reach 'all kinds of workplaces' and home workers as poll shows majority of Scottish workers back experiment.

The Scottish government has been urged to expand its ongoing trial of a four day working week after research found there was overwhelming support for the project.

Almost 90 per cent of working-age people in Scotland told think tank IPPR Scotland they would take part in experiments to see whether reducing worker’s hours for the same pay can improve wellbeing and narrow gender divides.

The think tank’s poll of 2,200 people found 80 per cent of staff think shortening the working week would have a positive impact on wellbeing while 65 per cent believe it would boost the economy.

IPPR Scotland senior research fellow Rachel Statham said trials must now be carried out in “all kinds of workplaces”, including non-office jobs, to provide a thorough test of how the idea works in practice.

“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,” said Statham.

“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. It’s time to turn our ambitions to build a Scotland better than before, into reality. That reality has to be a fairer, wellbeing economy in which everyone in Scotland can thrive.”

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Nicola Sturgeon unveiled plans to trial a four-day working week after she was re-elected in May’s elections. The Scottish First Minister has announced a £10m fund to test out the idea, revealing the government would “explore whether the changes in working practices brought about by the pandemic can improve wellbeing and productivity.”

So far, Edinburgh-based construction company Orocco and Glasgow’s packaging supplier UPAC are among the firms who have signed up to a trial while Masterchef finalist Dean Banks has also vowed to bring a four-day week to his Pompadour restaurant in Edinburgh from October. 

IPPR Scotland’s report, released today, concluded workers from across the economy will need to be included in the trial. However, the think tank did note workers in lower-paid sectors might need extra support to trial a four-day week with part-time roles, in particular, “less straightforward” to adapt to a shorter working week.

Researchers said over three quarters of the working-age adults they quizzed indicated a 4 day working week would give them more time to spend with friends and family as well as tackling stress and mental illness. Meanwhile, 65 per cent said they expected to see improved productivity.

The Scottish arm of the Trade Unions Congress (STUC) has also thrown its support behind a four-day week, citing how cutting down on travel could boost the environment,

Rez Foyer, STUC general secretary, said: “Moving workers to a four-day week, without loss of pay, would bring a wide range of benefits – improving public health and wellbeing, redistributing caring responsibilities more equally between men and women, reducing carbon emissions from commuting, and boosting economic productivity.

“Crucially, this research shows it is popular with the Scottish public too.”

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