A four day work week could be on the cards

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Ireland’s second largest union called for a four day work week as they said it’s better for business and workers.

Fórsa – which has 80,000 members – announced that Irish companies which pilot a four day work week will be able to seek support from a coalition called Four Day Week Ireland (4DWI). 

The coalition said it wanted “a gradual, steady, managed transition to a shorter working week for all workers in the private and public sectors.”

4DWI said they would draw on the experiences of business which have already implemented a four day work week, such as the Galway based company ICE Group. The recruitment, HR outsourcing, and training company brought in longer weekends in June of this year.

A four day work week was also trialed by Perpetual Guardian, a company in New Zealand. Academics who studied the trial found that the staff was seven per cent less stressed after the trial and their work-life balance improved by 24 per cent.

Perpetual Guardian paid its staff as though they had been working for five days. Though it’s worth noting that according to the Guardian, they did not make the four day work week mandatory.

Instead, workers who continued to work five days a week were given other benefits such as being able to start or finish early. This was to help them avoid traffic congestion or manage their childcare.

If their trial proves anything, it’s that a four day work week is certainly worth looking into. The prospect of more free time and less stress is something which appeals to pretty much everyone (except for perhaps sadists).

Job stress in Ireland doubled in five years according to a 2018 study done by the Economic & Social Research Institute. Additionally, it found that people working over 40 hours a week were twice as likely to experience job stress as people who worked 36 to 40 hours.

It may seem obvious that working less hours will lead to less stress, but it’s worth stating nonetheless. A lot of business – such as Perpetual Guardian – may argue for a four day work week because it doesn’t decrease productivity. 

But ultimately workers should always be the number one priority. Even if it was found that four day work weeks don’t actually increase productivity, the fact that they appear to decrease the stress of workers is reason enough to implement them.

That’s not to say that four day work weeks are suited to every profession – something which even 4DWI recognises. However, there are various ways that labour rights can be improved, and more flexible hours in one way or another is certainly one of them.

A 2016 study by Eurofound found that Irish people worked on average 39 hours a week, which is an hour more than most European countries. As well as that, Ireland only has 20 holidays a year – which is the statutory minimum. 

Labour rights affect everyone, and it’s in most people’s best interest to improve them. Whether it’s a four day work week or more holidays, Irish workers deserve better. 

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Image Credit: PxHere