Is it time to normalise a four-day week? - Lorna Slater
But what if there was better work/life balance all year round? What if people could have more time to themselves and an economy that focuses on working to live rather than living to work?
One change that could make a transformative impact on millions of lives is the normalisation of the four-day work week.
At first it may sound like a pipe dream, but more companies are considering the idea and the impact it could have.
From June to December 2022, over 2900 workers from 61 different companies and organisations across the UK switched to a four-day working week with no loss of pay.
It was the biggest trial to date, with participants ranging from local shops and retailers to large corporations. Of those that took part, 56 decided to extend it, including 18 who decided to make it permanent.
There were some differences in terms of implementation, but what they found was almost universal.
It was good for workers, with happier and less stressed employees who had more time to spend with their families. It was also good for the companies, with job retention increasing by 57 per cent, huge reductions in stress and burnout and the number of sick days decreasing by two thirds.
For some households and industries it wouldn’t necessarily be such a big transition, with one in four workers in Scotland already working four days a week or less.
However, for some it would obviously be a big change and would have huge ramifications, which is why the different trials taking place and the lessons we get from them are so important.
It is something we are also committed to exploring in the Scottish Government, with plans for public sector pilots over the course of this Parliamentary term.
This work will be part of our drive towards a wellbeing economy. It comes alongside measures that are already in place, such as free bus travel for young people and a Scottish Child Payment that is helping families through the cost-of-living crisis.
If we want an economy based on good and sustainable work, fair wages and economic security we need to be prepared to think big.
But we can’t do it all with the limited powers we have. That is why moves towards a four-day week are at the heart of the Scottish Green vision for a progressive and independent Scotland. It is 150 years since Bank Holidays were established in the UK, and 100 years since the creation of the modern weekend.
Given enormous changes in technology since, the expansion and normalisation of the four-day working week may be the next step on our journey to an economy that works for people and planet.
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity