The Speaker
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 – 17:03

Welsh government urged to trial four-day working week

Sophie Howe, Head of the Future Generations Commission has urged the Welsh government to do a public sector trial-run of a four-day working week.

The recommendation from the Future Generations Commission followed the completion of a report conducted by the think-tank, Autonomy.

The report suggests that cutting working hours without reducing pay could see an improvement in worker well-being and productivity.

The report covers previous experiments with four-day work weeks In Iceland, Germany, and the UK, and finds that workers reported a vast array of benefits.

From the trial in Iceland, worker’s reported experiencing:

  • Improved leisure time
  • More time and energy for exercise
  • A better relationship with their jobs in terms of overwork and stress
  • Improved domestic life
  • Improved family life, particularly for single-parent families
  • Better communication between spouses/partners
  • A significant rise in men’s participation in domestic duties
  • Better relationships between parents and children

The productivity of the participating organisations was “at the very least maintained, and in some instances improved.”

The public sector employs many people in Wales, accounting for 25% of jobs in some regions. The report that establishing a four-day work week would create jobs, reduce stress, improve mental health and relieve some pressure on the NHS.

The report predicts that establishing a four day work week in the public sector would:

  • Ultimately create 37,859 jobs in Wales
  • Cost around £1 billion
  • Amount to 10.5% of the public sector salary bill
  • Amount to 2.5% of Wales’ current public sector spending
  • Be roughly 0.1% of the UK’s public spending

While establishing a shorter work-week in the Welsh public sector is expected to cost £1 billion, the report states that a rise in productivity of 10% would be sufficient to effectively negate the cost.

The Welsh Government said:

“We recognise potential benefits in a shorter working week and some businesses in Wales are already expressing an interest in moving in that direction. We are considering the progress of pilots in other countries and examining the lessons Wales can learn.”

Shavanah Taj, the General Secretary of the Wales Trades Union Congress, said:

“The fight for decent working hours has always been at the heart of union campaigning. We welcome this call for a shorter working-week trial.”

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