A new report from IPPR Scotland finds there is majority backing for a four-day working week on full pay, but says it is vital that a government pilot includes a broad variety of jobs and sectors.
The report, based on a poll of 2,203 respondents aged 16-65, finds that 88 per cent of working-age people in Scotland would be willing to take part in shorter working time trial schemes set to be piloted by Scottish government; over 80 per cent would support the introduction of a four-day working week with no loss of pay; 80 per cent believe a four-day week would have a positive effect on their wellbeing; and 65 per cent believe that it would have a positive impact on Scotland’s productivity.
The report says 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 £10m fund. This includes trialling a four-day working week pilot scheme.
The report says it is vital that any pilot must include a variety of workers and employers across the economy, including non-office-based jobs. Unless lower paid sectors are included, and those roles that may be less straightforward to reduce working time for – such as part-time work – pilots may not test proposals for shorter-weeks properly, says IPPR Scotland.
It adds that there are additional policy measures the Scottish government could take to ensure that workers in these situations do not miss out on benefits of the scheme and are not adversely impacted – including 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.
The report also found a number of other social and health benefits from shorter hours working. Almost 78 per cent of those polled said they would spend extra time away from work doing things that help them stay well such as seeing friends and family and enjoying hobbies (40 per cent would do this). And it says a shorter working week for all could enable men to take on a greater share of unpaid work, therefore narrowing gender gaps in hours and pay.
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.”