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UK businesses urged to join four-day working week trial

Participating employees will receive 100% of their usual pay for only four days at work

UK businesses are being urged to join a six-month trial of a four-day working week, as organisers aim to sign up at least 30 companies by June.

Organised by the 4 Day Week Global organisation and the Autonomy thinktank, the pilot programme will be monitored by Cambridge and Oxford Universities in order to measure the four-day working week’s impact on staff productivity and wellbeing, as well as the impact on the environment and gender equality.

Participating employees will receive 100% of their usual pay for only four days at work, in exchange for their commitment to maintain "at least" 100% productivity.

Autonomy co-director Kyle Lewis said that organisations taking part in the trial will benefit from “unparalleled access to the expertise, tools and resources they will need to run a smooth and successful trial”.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for organisations who want to be pioneers and trial a four-day week as a way of supporting and empowering workers, enhancing organisational productivity and having a positive impact on our society and the environment,” he added.

In 2019, prior to the mass shift to remote working, Autonomy authored a report which found “strong indications that reducing the working week can help reduce air pollution and our overall carbon footprint”.

According to Brendan Burchell, professor in the Social Sciences at Cambridge University, with the rise of technology allowing to maintain productivity, “the time has come for more organisations to take the leap and unravel the practicalities”

“This scheme has tremendous potential to progress from conversations about the general advantages of a shorter working week to focussed discussions on how organisations can implement it in the best possible way,” he added.

One of the businesses taking part in the pilot programme is the Edinburgh-based Canon, which found that the work-life balance of its 140 employees had changed “substantially” during the pandemic.

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As a responsive employer we are always looking at how we can adapt our working practices to ensure that employees find their time with us is meaningful, fulfilling and productive. For this reason, we’re keen to pilot a four-day week to see if it can work for us,” said president Ken Sutherland.

Last year, UK-based fintech Atom bank garnered headlines for introducing a four-day working week for all its employees with no change in salary. Prior to that, UK supermarket Morrisons also announced plans to shift to a four-day working week, keeping employee pay the same. However, this was only made available to head office staff in Bradford, who also had to work one Saturday per month to recoup the lost time.

Businesses can sign up for the trial until the end of March. 

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