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Brits have just got one step closer to a four-day working week

A Labour MP presented a bill to parliament suggesting working hours should be reduced from 48 to 32

Written by
Ellie Muir

Ever feel like once you’ve caught up on life admin and seen a couple of pals, the weekend is already basically over? We’d all be a lot happier with more free time on our hands, right? Well, it seems the official four-day working week campaign is gathering steam. A bill suggesting that the working week should be reduced from 48 hours to 32 was presented to parliament yesterday.

Under the plans, any work beyond those 32 hours would have to be paid by employers as overtime, at 1.5 times the ordinary rate of pay.

Labour MP Peter Dowd spoke in the House of Commons, making the case for a shorter working week, saying: ‘It’s time for change. He insisted that the initiative would be good for the economy, workers and the environment. 

It follows the success of the UK’s first four-day week trial. Nine in ten companies that took part in the trial said they could continue the scheme beyond the end of the trial period.

More generally, there’s loads of public support for it. A survey of 2,000 workers by NerdWallet revealed that 72 per cent of the 1,310 respondents who currently work five or more days per week were in favour of going down to four.

Dowd, the Labour MP for Bootle, said that 18 million workdays were lost in 2019 to 2020 as a result of work-related stress, anxiety or depression. Dowd also highlighted a report by the World Health Organisationwhich revealed that ‘long working hours are killing thousands of people globally every year’.

He said: ‘It’s time for change. The arguments made against the four-day working week today are exactly the same arguments that were made against the five-day week 100 years ago.’

‘All the evidence shows a four-day week with no loss of pay would be good for the economy, good for workers and good for the environment.’

Back in August, Time Out asked three British workers how they found the four-day working week trial. Unsurprisingly, they all saw significant improvements to their lifestyle: seeing friends more, signing up for half marathons, rock climbing, that sort of thing. Laura White from south London told us: ‘I feel like I’m much more in a routine. I use the Pomodoro Technique to get things done and find my meetings are more focused.’ 

‘I do a lot of music groups after work, which takes up two or three hours of my evenings, so being able to schedule things like appointments and cleaning for Friday has made a really big difference,’ she said.

So, could we be one step closer to the most significant shift in British working patterns since the introduction of the five-day week about 100 years ago? Well, the bill will be considered further at the second reading on December 9. Until then, we can all fantasise about what we’d do with a spare day off.

ICYMI: more UK train strikes are planned for October and November.

Plus: what does the government's latest U-turn mean for energy bills?

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