A new report from The Social Market Foundation (SMF) entitled A question of time [PDF] explores the question of the four day week.
The key findings (from the exec summary) are that…
- Most workers – 80% – would not favour a four-day week if it meant earning less. That puts the onus on advocates of the policy to explain how shorter working hours can be paid for, with no loss of income for workers.
- Support for a shorter, 32-hour work week is strongest in certain pockets of the labour force. 11% of workers would be willing to sacrifice some income for more leisure. Rollout of the four-day week should focus on these pockets, which are more likely to be found in sectors like banking and construction, and in managerial and professional roles.
- Those that stand to benefit from a four-day week in the first instance are more likely to be socially advantaged: higher earners, those in higher occupational classes, and men. It may be that an increase in inequality on some dimensions is an acceptable price to pay for some workers to see improvements, or that other strategies are needed to offset these inequalities
Bectu members have comparable concerns about long-day working and there is always a concern among members that any demands for shorter hours (or four day weeks!) would result in lower wages.
The union would point out that…
- long hours ≠ productivity (quite the opposite, in fact)
- employers are buying productivity + quality of work from our members.
- what our members are selling is – if anything – of higher value when they are able to work sensible hours
- employers need to recognise that they are shooting themselves and everyone else in the foot by insisting on crazy working patterns.
The arguments are set out in the Eyes Half Shut management and productivity strand (below – the original can be uploaded from this page on the Bectu website – a sub-page of the Eyes Half Shut campaign page)