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UK four day week pilot might be key differentiator for employers

07 June 2022

Ann Frances Cooney, partner and employment law expert at DWF, comments on the four day week pilot programme in the UK. 

She said: "In what is reported to be the world's largest trial of a four-day working week, approximately 70 companies are taking part in an experiment whereby employees will receive 100% of pay for 80% of hours worked. The pilot is being managed by a collaboration of academics and researchers from Oxford, Cambridge and Boston College, as well as the think tank Autonomy.  

"The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the way in which we work and allowed for an unprecedented level of flexibility.  Against this backdrop momentum has gathered for the four-day working week trial to take place. Undoubtedly employers across the board will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of the experiment and most importantly the impact on productivity, employee well-being and engagement and the overall economic result for the business.  With employers feeling the effects of the so called "great resignation" and the incredibly competitive job market, many organisations will be seeking new and innovative ways to attract the best talent – the four day working week might be a key differentiator.    

"Although the headlines appear to be eye-catchingly positive, employers seeking to run a pilot themselves or indeed change contracts of employment on a more permanent basis would need to factor in a number of practical employment law considerations. The issues range from formally changing terms and conditions to possible reduction in overall holiday entitlement to ensuring those who are already working part time are not discriminated against. There is also a risk that, in reality, employees have to fit 5 days' worth of work into 4 days which could be stressful and unsustainable in the longer term."

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