Four-Day Working Week, What Do Employers and Unions Say About It?

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David Mark/Pixabay
David Mark/Pixabay

The sound news that Belgium, due to labor market reforms, could soon switch to a four-day working week is not as revolutionary as it seems at first glance, reports Jutarnji List. According to a proposal that leaked to the public, Belgians would still work the same number of hours a week, from 38 to 40, but would do so in a tight four-day period.

In other words, they would get the same salary and work the same number of hours, but in four longer working days, with one day a week more for themselves, something like a regular “extended weekend”. If the Belgian government does decide on such a bill, details of the implementation have yet to be worked out with representatives of employers and unions, which could take six months, Euronews reports. In any case, the Belgian government, as far as is known, did not envisage the transition to a four-day working week as an obligation. What do they say about all this in the Croatian Employers’ Association? They are not reluctant.

The chief economist of HUP, Iva Tomić, answers that such a decision should be left to each individual employer to choose, but it is important that there is a choice, that there is flexibility in the law itself. “Namely, different industries and sectors can hardly be reduced to the same form of work”, says Tomić.

For some employers, especially in coronavirus crisis, the scope of work is greatly reduced, for some it is certainly increased, so it would be good to have an open opportunity for a four-day working week for those employers who opt for this option, and which is optimal for them in terms of productivity and worker satisfaction”, says Iva Tomić. She adds that the salary policy depends on each company and for some “it may be possible to keep the same level of productivity, even the same salary, for a smaller fund of hours, but we leave that decision to employers “.

Krešimir Sever, leader of the Independent Croatian Trade Unions, says that the unions also support the possibility of a four-day working week, provided that it is voluntary, for example, if it is a consequence of an agreement between workers and employers and if there is a possibility of returning to a five-day working week, what it’s like to work four days for ten hours”.

He notes that this is easier to do for intellectual jobs, computer scientists, and the like, but much more difficult in production, because physical work is not so easy to do ten hours in a row. “Technological advances make it possible to shorten working hours, so a shortened working week should be introduced in that combination. In other words, either introduce a shorter working day five days a week or keep eight hours of working time, but four days a week”, explains Sever.

In Iceland, they tested a model based on just fewer working hours per week, which eventually led to a change in the labor market. They first conducted tests in the public sector in 2015 and 2017, in which the number of working hours per week was mostly reduced from 40 to 35 or 36 hours, while the salary, of course, remained the same.

A study published this year by the Icelandic association Alda states that productivity has remained the same or increased, services provided have not been reduced, and workers who took part in the tests said it “had a strong impact on work-life balance”. They had more time for children and hobbies, and men in relationships were more involved in household chores.

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