Government senators and Greens have called for a major trial of the four-day work week after hearing “substantial evidence” of its effectiveness.
The Select Committee on Work and Care, chaired by Greens Senator Barbara Pocock, released its report late last week.
A key recommendation from the report is that the federal government conduct a four-day workweek trial based on the 100:80:100 model. This model sees employees receive 100 percent of their pay while working 80 percent of their normal hours while maintaining 100 percent productivity.
The workplace revolution has gathered momentum around the world, highlighting the potential to improve work-life balance and overall health while maintaining the same level of work.
The Senate Judiciary Committee said such a trial would have to take place in “diverse sectors and geographies” and that the government should work with a local university to assess the impact of the trial on productivity, health and well-being, cultural change in the workplace, gender equality and impact on the gender distribution of unpaid care work.
“It has been many decades since Australia introduced widespread workweek reductions and we are still a long way from our mid-nineteenth century leadership in international rankings for workweek reductions,” the Select Committee on Work and Care reports. said.
“It is time for a review of standard hours, the frequency with which they are exceeded without compensation, and for more general experiments with shorter work weeks.”
The report highlighted how a four-day work week could help normalize care as part of working life.
“While we recognize that a four-day work week and other shorter work week initiatives may not be appropriate for all workplaces, there is a growing body of evidence showing that it can work in most sectors and industries,” the report said.
“Since a workplace with shorter working hours has the potential to level the playing field between men and women, it not only raises the prospect of more women in leadership roles, but also positively impacts unconscious biases in recruitment and training, as well as promotion in different workplaces.”
It’s time for sweeping changes to the normal work week, Pocock said.
“The commission’s report gives the government the blueprint it needs to revolutionize our workplace legislation to enable Australians, and women in particular, to balance work and care responsibilities,” said Pocock.
“Australia is an international standout in our support for caring workers. We’ve fallen too far behind. And we pay a price in labor supply, stressed workers and gender inequality.
“It is time for a new social contract, fit for the 21st century workplace, that does not put the burden on employees who combine care responsibilities with their work.”
While the report’s recommendations were supported by the participating Labor senators, they reiterated that they do not reflect government policy and that fiscal constraints may limit the ability to implement them.
“This report provides important contemporary knowledge about the state of work and care in our country,” said the Labor senators.
“It is now the government’s role to consider the report and its recommendations within the context of wider budgetary and regulatory constraints.”
August last year more than a dozen Australian companies started on a trial of the four-day work week, including Momentum Mental Health. That company’s CEO, Deborah Bailey, told the committee that 12 of its 14 employees are currently on four-day work weeks and that the company is thriving.
“We work with more customers; our customer numbers are up eight percent, so our output is up,” Bailey said.
“Customer satisfaction has increased, the number of hours of service we provide in that time has increased, and our external stakeholder engagement has also increased tremendously.”
Of the staff who took part in the trial, 70 percent now regularly get eight hours of sleep, compared to 56 percent before the trial started. Happiness has also increased, while stress has decreased.
Big company Unilever also announced an 18-month trial of the concept at the end of last year, in which 500 employees will participate.