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4 Day Week reaches tipping point in multiple countries

March 12, 2021 Coronavirus (Covid-19) No Comments Email Email

The 4 Day Week has reached a global tipping point in a COVID environment with a renewed focus on the rights and welfare of workers and the economic wellbeing and performance of organisations, with both developed and developing nations introducing the 4 Day Week into political conversations. The health of the planet has also been firmly placed on the agenda, as evidenced by the United States’ re-entry into the Paris Accord to combat climate change.

Andrew Barnes, the New Zealand business leader and innovator who pioneered the 100:80:100 4 Day Week model when he undertook a unique trial in his own company three years ago, says the events of the past 12 months have refocused leaders in government and business around the world on the problems that can be addressed by a widespread change in how people work.

“It is encouraging to see a work culture shift in India, where the Labour and Employment Secretary Apurva Chandra has announced the government is considering a major change to its labour policy. It plans to introduce new labour codes and rules that will give flexibility to companies looking to implement four-day working weeks.

“And we were not at all surprised to see, at the end of January, the finance ministry of Spain confirm a pilot that offers firms financial backing from the government if they cut workers’ hours to 32 hours a week. Under the plan, the government will make up the remaining pay. In the immediate term, this is a smart response to the economic effects of the pandemic and a sweetener to businesses to maintain employment – but the 4 Day Week as a model of work is becoming more central to society, culture and the global economy as we move into the mass-vaccination phase of the pandemic.

“The comments by a key party leader in Spain, that the eight-hour day was unrealistic a century ago, go to the heart of the 4 Day Week movement – that the way we work changes by necessity over time, and we are now in a phase of economic development, human health, and climate crisis that requires as drastic a change as the eight-hour day was when it was legislated.”

Spain’s policy moves follow extensive coverage in Spanish media of New Zealand’s 4 Day Week. Mr Barnes has also engaged in discussions with business leaders in Spain.

In the southern hemisphere, global accounting firm PwC will shift most of its 8,000-strong workforce in Australia to a 4 Day week by 1 May. Additionally, employees who have children have the option to take a leave of absence and receive 20 percent of their normal pay (anywhere from one to six months); all employees are permitted to set aside “protected” hours of the day for family reasons, without meetings or assignments; and other entitlements are available including $2,000 in child or elder care reimbursement.

More widely, 4 Day Week campaigns are amassing political, corporate and public support. Four Day Week Ireland is advocating for a transition to a shorter working week for all public and private sector workers; after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged employers to think about how they might offer a 4 Day Week, Unilever New Zealand moved its staff to a 4 Day Week with no change in pay; and Microsoft Japan notably reported a 39% increase in productivity from a 4 Day Week trial. Meanwhile, UK-based company Target Publishing was able to reinstate pay and retain a 4 Day Week after temporary pay cuts due to COVID lockdown.

Mr Barnes says, “COVID hasn’t caused the tipping point – the social and economic trend was already moving in favour of the 4 Day Week – but the drastic effects of the pandemic mean we are now seeing in real time the importance of government and business collaborating to protect worker pay, while opening us up to the benefits of a productivity-focused, reduced-hour model for human wellbeing, business performance and the climate crisis. It is clear the future of work has arrived.

“It would be ironic if India was able to push through national policy to support the introduction of a 4 Day Week to improve employee wellbeing before New Zealand, where the 4 Day Week 100-80-100 concept was introduced and first proven.”

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