A group of cross-party MPs has written to the chancellor Rishi Sunak asking the government to consider a four-day working week.
The group believes the policy could be “a powerful tool to recover from this crisis”, and wants Sunak to set up a commission to explore the implications of a four-day week.
Coronavirus and employers
A new commission in Scotland, the Futures Commission, is already looking into a number of similar measures to help the nation recover from the impact of coronavirus – with a four-day working week tabled for discussion.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has also discussed the possibility of introducing a four-day working week to stimulate the economy and boost domestic tourism while borders are closed.
Signatories to the letter include former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, SNP MP Mhairi Black and Green MP Caroline Lucas, as well as Communication Workers’ Union leader Dave Ward and Ian Waddell, general secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions.
The letter refers to the reduction in working hours after the Great Depression in the 1930s, which was introduced in a bid to reduce unemployment. “Shorter hours have been used throughout history as a way of responding to economic crises,” it says.
“Work patterns have already been dramatically altered as a result of the pandemic and we believe the time is now right to explore putting a four-day, 30-hour working week (or any equivalent variation) front and centre – including protections for those on low incomes – as the country unites behind building back better out of this crisis,” it adds.
“Three-quarters of UK workers already supported a four-day working week before the coronavirus pandemic hit and millions of workers have now had a taste of working remotely and on different hours. It’s in no one’s interests to return back to the pressure and stress that people were under before this pandemic.”
Aidan Harper, who leads the 4 Day Week Campaign, said it was important to ensure “we have a better model of work emerging [from the crisis] as we had going in”.
“The benefits of a four-day week are boundless; better mental health and wellbeing, work shared more equally across the economy, greater productivity at work, and the potential to engage in more environmentally sustainable behaviours.”
In its election manifesto last year, the Labour party committed to delivering a 32-hours working week within a decade if it was elected.