Four-day working week – Thousands of UK workers begin trial

Over 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies are taking part in a four-day working week trial. The experiment is thought to be the world’s biggest trial into the new working pattern and will run for six months.


The pilot has been organised by campaigners such as the 4 Day Week Campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College will help to manage the experiment in partnership with the think tank, Autonomy. During the trial, employees will get 100% pay for 80% of the hours they would usually work, with the aim of being more productive.

Researchers will look at how employees respond to having a shorter week, and will analyse indicators such as job and life satisfaction, health, stress and burnout, sleep, energy use and travel. All of these aspects have come under sharp focus since the life changing pandemic we have just come out of.

Jas Dubb, Associate Solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership considers the pros and cons of a four-day working week.

Pros and cons of a four day working week

In 2021, a survey was carried out by recruitment company Reed. More than 80% of people in the UK were in favour of a four-day working week and listed some of the advantages of the four-day model as:

• Improved morale and fewer absences: A shorter working week leads to less burnout, making staff happier and more present in their roles. It also allows employees to recover from the stresses work can bring.
• Helps recruitment: Offering potential and existing employees a flexible working pattern will help attract and retain talented professionals.
• Helps improve focus: Many people believe that having a short week will help to improve focus and getting down to work in a structured and timely manner.
• Less Travel Costs: A shorter working week means less travel costs for people (a growing concern with the rise of the cost of living).

However, there are also some potential disadvantages of the four day work week, such as:
• It won’t suit all industries: Some sectors operate a seven-day-a-week presence, which could make a short working week impractical. Examples include emergency services, public transport networks and logistics.
• It doesn’t suit all workers: Some employees prefer the structure of a five-day week, and some like working overtime.
• It can increase costs: Some sectors, such as healthcare, require staff to work long shifts. Companies in these areas may have to pay more overtime or draft more staff in to make up any shortfalls.

Jas Dubb comments: “The four-day working week is nothing new in other parts of the world, with the United States and Belgium introducing such a pattern. It will be interesting to see where the pilot scheme takes us in the near future. All the signs point to an evolving definition of work and many people are flagging the need for companies to listen, learn and adapt to what employees want. A four-day working week could possibly be the latest change in this area. ”

For any further guidance on this issue or any other employment-related matter, please contact Jas Dubb or a member of the Employment Team at Wilkes LLP. Alternatively, email us at [email protected].

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