A new Future of Work Commission should work towards a four-day week, with no reduction to living standards, according to a TUC report out today.
The report, A future that works for working people, calls for employers, unions and government to set up of a Future of Work Commission which would ensure new technology is introduced with the consent of workers – with new technology agreements agreed by trade unions in workplaces across the country; investigate how to boost productivity across the UK by investing in new technology; ensure that the gains from that productivity are shared with workers, setting out an ambition to move to shorter hours and higher pay; and provide skills training for those at risk of losing their jobs as the workplace changes – with a new learning entitlement for every worker.
The findings are based on a poll of 2,145 working people on how technology could affect the future of work which found that most people would opt for a four-day working week if they could choose and that stress and long hours of work were the second biggest concern of workers after pay.
Some 48 per cent of workers polled said concerns about pay falling behind living costs was in their top three worries – over twice the amount who say they’re worried about the potential for technology to take their jobs. Fifty one per cent said they were worried that the benefits of new technology will be hoarded by managers and shareholders.
The TUC says over 1.4 million people are now working on seven days of the week and 3.3 million people work more than 45 hours a week. Over half of workers polled said they are being monitored at work with only two in five feeling able to challenge this decision.
Some 28 per cent of workers say that machines undertake clerical tasks in their workplace and three quarters (75 per cent) of people said that higher pay was the thing that would most improve their working lives.
The report also called for the National Minimum Wage to be raised to £10 an hour as quickly as possible; a ban on zero-hour contracts; fair scheduling rules that give workers decent notice of their shifts, and compensation when a shift is cancelled at short notice; better enforcement of the working time directive; and new protections from excessive surveillance at work.
On the four-day week, the report states: “When we asked working people what they viewed as the ‘ideal’ working week, there was a clear consensus around four days.
“This doesn’t mean that everyone has the same preferences about their working pattern. For some, the best option might be shorter hours spread over more days. And for existing part-time workers, a four-day week could be an unacceptable increase in current working hours.
“Others might prefer to take any reduction in working time in larger doses – perhaps at the end of working life. But if the twentieth century saw the normalisation of the weekend while living standards rose, moving towards a typical four-day week seems like a useful way to think about what we could achieve in the twenty-first century.”