Four day work week campaigners launch new project in wake of successful pilot

Campaigners advocating for a four day work week are gearing up for a fresh pilot project aimed at promoting flexible working practices.Campaigners advocating for a four day work week are gearing up for a fresh pilot project aimed at promoting flexible working practices. The initiative is set to launch in November, with participating companies currently being invited to sign up. The findings from this project will be presented to the government in the summer of 2025. The push for a four-day working week, notably with no reduction in pay, has gained significant traction in recent years, particularly following the Covid-19 pandemic which reshaped workplace expectations. In 2022, a previous UK pilot saw 61 companies participate, and 54 of them continued the practice a year and a half later. Similar initiatives have also been conducted in Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Iceland.

This upcoming trial will explore various flexible working policies, including shorter work weeks, flexible start and finish times, a nine-day fortnight, and compressed hours where the same number of hours are worked over fewer days. The UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign and flexible working consultancy Timewise will oversee the new pilot, with training beginning in September. Research support will be provided by academics from the University of Cambridge, Boston College, and the Autonomy Institute.

Under the previous Conservative government, the four-day week faced opposition. When South Cambridgeshire district council trialed the change, the then local government minister, Lee Rowley, demanded an immediate end to the experiment. The levelling up department, led by Michael Gove, threatened to use “financial levers” to compel councils to comply.

Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, expressed optimism that the new Labour government would be more open to changing working practices. “With a new Labour government, change is in the air and we hope to see employers embracing this change by signing up to our pilot,” he stated.

Despite Labour leader Keir Starmer not including a four-day week in the party’s recent election manifesto, several prominent cabinet members and the influential Unison union support the policy. Deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner has encouraged businesses to review the results of the initial UK pilot. Energy Secretary Ed Miliband has discussed the four-day week in a podcast and book, while Work and Pensions Secretary Liz Kendall has shown interest in flexible working. Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds has also met with policy advocates and shown interest.

Historically, a six-day work week was common in Victorian times until trade unions and productivity gains established the two-day weekend. Proponents of the four-day week argue it could further boost productivity, improve staff retention, and reduce worker absences.

The South Cambridgeshire trial found benefits such as fewer staff quitting, faster planning decisions, and quicker call response times. Out of 24 areas of council work analyzed, 11 saw performance improvements, 11 remained stable, and two—rent collection and the speed of reletting empty council houses—worsened.

Joe Ryle concluded, “As hundreds of British companies and one local council have already shown, a four-day week with no loss of pay can be a win-win for workers and employers. The nine to five, five-day working week was invented 100 years ago and is no longer fit for purpose. We are long overdue an update.”