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What Were the Results of the Largest UK Public Sector Four-Day Work Week Trial?

by Rahil M
0 comment

The four-day work week trial was criticised as “an ideological crusade” by Anthony Browne, the Tory former local MP

Independent research has indicated that in UK’s largest public sector experiment of the four-day workweek, there was a decrease in the number of garbage collectors quitting and an increase in the speed at which planning decisions, benefits processing, and phone answering were made.

Analysis of productivity before and during the 15-month trial by academics at the universities of Cambridge and Salford shows that the controversial experiment by the South Cambridgeshire district council with a shorter working week led to improvements in performance in 11 out of 24 areas, little or no change in 11 areas, and worsening of performance in two areas.

The Conservative government reacted angrily to the trial by the Liberal Democrat-controlled authority, with a ministry asking Bridget Smith, the borough leader, to “end your experiment immediately” and claiming it would not provide value for money for local taxpayers.

The trial was criticised as “an ideological crusade” by Anthony Browne, the Tory former local MP who was beaten by a Liberal Democrat in last week’s general election.

The multi-year analysis of the trial, which included around 450 desk employees and garbage collectors, discovered:

  • A 39% decrease in personnel turnover helped save £371,500 annually, primarily on agency labour expenditures.
  • About a week and a half ago, decisions were made about regular home planning applications.
  • When compared to earlier, almost 15% more significant planning application judgements were made on time.
  • Changes to housing benefit and council tax benefit claims were processed more quickly.

The rent-collecting situation for council housing experienced a modest worsening, which was ascribed to the ongoing crisis in the cost of living. The average time it took to relet vacant homes decreased from 28 to 30 days. To account for the effect of Covid-19, the results were modified.

The outcomes signalled “a huge opportunity for councils and organisations across the public sector to start planning for a four-day working week,” according to Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign,

In order to shorten waiting lists, the next Labour government is expected to force the NHS to work longer hours and conduct more procedures on weekends. It is also getting ready to expedite the planning process in order to encourage home construction.

Since the pandemic, productivity in the British economy has stagnated after traditionally increasing at a rate of almost 2% annually. Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s 2019 manifesto contained intentions to reduce the working week to 32 hours without sacrificing wages. However, the party made no mention of allowing a four-day workweek in its most recent pledges.

Without increasing income tax, national insurance, or VAT, it has promised to bring about economic development and productivity growth throughout the economy to allow for increased spending on public services.

Employers have experimented with the four-day workweek ranging from Sweden to the US to the UAE to New Zealand. However, the Greek government this week unveiled a new six-day workweek regulation for private enterprises in an effort to stimulate the economy in the face of a skilled labour crisis and dwindling population. It is asking employees to put in more hours in order to increase production.

Employees in the South Cambridgeshire trial were required to do 100% of their job in 80% of the allotted time for 100% of the remuneration. The study ran from January 2023 to April 2024. The entire trial reduced worker turnover by 39%, and the study found improvements in employee commitment, motivation, and physical and mental health scores.

Numerous private businesses have already implemented the strategy, with many discovering that it improves employee retention.

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