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The shorter working week – CIPD

The movement towards a shorter working week has gathered momentum due to a number of companies taking part in four-day week trials in the UK and abroad.

These trials will give insights into how these organisations manage to move to a four-day week and provide learnings for other employers. What is still ambiguous is the general attitude of employers towards a shorter week, and the mechanics of how organisations implement reduced working hours without compromising pay.

Key findings

• Employees’ preferences for working patterns differ, but most are happy with their current working hours. Many are already working a four-day week or less, and equally, many work more than a five-day week.
• While the majority of people would like to work fewer hours, they are not willing to take a pay cut to facilitate this.
• From the data, employers appear ambivalent about reducing hours and see a move to a four-day week as unlikely. A shorter week also raises the question of how to manage atypical and non-salaried workers.
• With the cost-of-living crisis, and a potential rise in unemployment, we are likely to see greater focus on the need to boost working hours.
• One challenge for those employers that had reduced working hours, was that it did not suit everybody in their organisation. As with homeworking, it may be that shorter working hours are possible in some industries more than others.

CIPD position

• Greater flexibility in work can play a role in increasing the inclusion of marginalised groups and catering to more people’s preferences.
• Most employers in our survey believe that there would need to be an increase in productivity by working smarter and/or investing in technology to facilitate a four-day week without reducing pay.
• Increasing workplace productivity should be the focus for policy-makers interested in supporting a shift to the four-day working week.
• There is the potential to boost productivity by raising the quality of people management and development in the UK, particularly among SMEs and through supporting employer investment in technology across the economy. This involves focusing on industrial strategy and making changes to skills policy. It will also require a change in the quality and availability of business support, to boost firms’ adoption of technology and build their people management and development capability