A new look at working time

In different countries around Europe, trade unions are examining four-day week experiments and assessing their benefits for workers.

In Denmark, five municipalities have launched initiatives on working time flexibility or the four-day week. Trade union HK Kommunal reports an increased willingness, particularly since the pandemic, to move away from traditional patterns of work. But employee concerns need to be addressed and full consideration given to the potential downsides of more flexibility on all workers affected. “It must be voluntary, and the parties must be involved locally, so that managers and employees can find an agreement that meets the needs and wishes in the given workplace,” says union chair Lene Roed.

A four-day week trial in 61 British companies, in June-December 2022, proved positive according to a study by the think-tank Autonomy, the University of Cambridge and Boston College. Employee burnouts fell by 71%, staff turnover went down by 57% and sick leave declined by 65%. Business revenues also improved, up an average of 1.4%. The 2,900 employees involved had their working week reduced without loss of salary.

In Italy, the First-Cisl, Fisac-Cgil, FNA, SNFIA and Uilca trade unions signed an agreement with banking group Intesa Sanpaolo enabling staff to work a four-day week, structured as nine hours per day, at the same level of pay.

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Photo: Tania Rose