NEW POLLING, published in an IPPR Scotland report, reveals that people in Scotland are overwhelmingly supportive of the introduction of a four-day working week.

In addition, the report finds that a shorter working week – in which workers’ hours are reduced without losing out on any pay – could improve wellbeing and help to narrow gender divides, which would contribute toward realising Scotland’s ambition to build a ‘wellbeing economy’.

The Scottish Government has announced plans to pilot shorter-working time with a £10 million fund. This includes trialling a four-day working week pilot scheme. However, a key finding of the report is that any pilot must include a variety of workers and employers across the economy. Unless lower paid sectors are included, and roles for which it may be less straightforward to reduce working time – such as part time work – pilots may not test proposals for shorter-weeks properly.

Drawing reference to countries such as Iceland, New Zealand and Japan, researchers at Scotland’s progressive think tank have demonstrated that there are potential tangible benefits for employees, employers, and Scotland as a whole if the opportunity for a four-day working week is seized. They found:

  • Wellbeing: Overworking is making people ill. Decreasing working hours reduces the risk of occupational accidents, and the likelihood of work related stress and mental illness. It also offers people the opportunity to spend time doing the things that help them to stay well, such as spending more time with friends and family (almost 78 per cent of those polled said they would spend extra time away from work doing this) and enjoying hobbies (40 per cent would do this).
  • Productivity: 65 per cent believe that a shorter working time would boost productivity. But researchers say that to get a better picture of impacts across the economy, trials need to be expanded to cover a range of industries and types of work.
  • Gender Divides: Currently, women are more likely to work part time hours than men, and to have additional unpaid caring responsibilities. By reducing working hours across the board, a ‘new normal’ of shorter working time can be set in Scotland. This can enable men to take on a greater share of unpaid work, therefore narrowing gender gaps in hours and pay.

Researchers at IPPR Scotland have called on the Scottish Government to expand its four-day week pilot across more sectors to include people working non-office-based jobs, shift work, flexible work, those working condensed hours, and those who work part-time.

In addition, IPPR Scotland have suggested there are additional policy measures the Scottish government can take to ensure that workers in these situations do not miss out on benefits of the scheme and are not adversely impacted. iThese nclude exploring increased annual leave entitlements, shortened daily shifts, and expanded entitlement to other forms of leave – such as new bank holidays, expanded parental leave, and increased annual leave entitlements.

Report co-author and senior research fellow at IPPR Scotland, Rachel Statham, said: “The Scottish Government is right to be trialling a four-day working week because today’s evidence shows that it is a policy with overwhelming public support, and could be a positive step towards building an economy hardwired for wellbeing.

“But any successful transition post-Covid-19 must include all kinds of workplaces, and all types of work. The full time, nine-to-five office job is not how many people across Scotland work – and shorter working time trials need to reflect that reality. So we must examine what shorter working time looks like from the perspective of shift workers, those working excessive hours to make ends meet, or those who currently have fewer hours than they would like to have.

“It’s time to turn our ambitions to build a Scotland better than before, into reality. That reality has to be a fairer, wellbeing economy in which everyone in Scotland can thrive”.

* Read Changing times: The future of working time in Scotland  here.

* Source: Institute for Public Policy Research