Employment

Welcome to the (Four-Day) Working Week

4 day work week

Many of us on a Thursday night would have kicked backed after a hard day’s work and contemplated the benefits of a 4-day working week. Well, Gambia have gone and done it, Friday is now a mandatory day off for all public sector workers in the country.

Yes, Gambia has just introduced a 4-day working week for public sector workers. President Yahya Jammeh has officially shortened the working week to give the predominantly Muslim population more time for socialising, agriculture and prayer. The president has faced some strong opposition as you might have seen in a recent article published by the Guardian.

So now that Gambia has taken the plunge, could such a mandate work in the UK?

Well, there is a good argument for the introduction of a 4-day working week in the UK as recent studies suggest that businesses place far too much emphasis on long hours. It has been proven that more time at work does not necessarily mean more output in the business world. It seems that the UK is stuck in the past, were working hours are concerned, as older generations were expected to work 12 hours a day breaking their backs for pittance, a tradition in business that has been kept alive as working hours are associated with time spent working and not on productivity.

Not to fall too far behind the times, employees in England and Wales have for some time been able to enjoy the fruits flexible working hours offer. Parents and carers have had the right to escape from the 9–to-5 rat race since 2009 and you can read all about it on the Carers Trust website. Originally, the scheme was introduced to employees who cared for disabled children under the age of 18 or 6. Changes made in 2007 extended flexible hours to those who had caring responsibilities to adults and, once again in 2009, when the right to request a flexible working pattern was extended to those employees with responsibility for children up to, and including the age of 16.

So in a nutshell, if you are based in the UK and you don’t have caring responsibilities, then flexi time is out of the question, unless you ask your employer nicely. Last year the government responded to a Consultation on Modern Workplaces and confirmed that they had intensions to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service.

With nothing set in stone it will be interesting to see how employers from all corners of the UK react to the opportunity to submit a request for a change to their working patterns once this change comes into force in 2014.

As the UK battles through clouds of austerity, many people believe that employees voluntarily opting for reduced hours might not be a smart move as businesses could easily cut ties with unwanted employees or employees on higher wages. However, reducing hours and offering flexible shift patterns could create a better work/life balance for some employees, which in turn could make employees happier and more productive, something which will no doubt be of interest to all businesses.

The likelihood of a rapid change around employment law is unlikely, as a shift in working patterns will most likely dig up more changes to legalisation that will need to be amended before being implemented. So in summary, we might not see a 4-day working work in 2013, but we could see employers giving employees the opportunity to work at times that best suit them in 2014.

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This post was created by Karl Young who has a personal interest in legal current affairs and employment law.