Date updated:

The UK’s four-day working week pilot scheme started in June this year. Over 3,300 workers and 70 companies (over 30 sectors are represented) are taking part in the scheme which will last 6 months. 

Those taking part in the pilot scheme are from a range of sectors in including business, consulting and management; education; hospitality; and engineering and manufacturing. Participants range in size also, from a local fish and chip shop to large corporate entities.  

Those taking part shall work four days a week and will receive 100 per cent of their pay for 80 per cent of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain at least 100 per cent productivity at work.

The pilot scheme and flexible working arrangements are both hot topics at the moment following the pandemic, and there is a real drive for organisations to adopt a shorter working week to increase productivity in the workforce. 

Whilst it is clear that there are great benefits to a four-day working week, its implementation would not come without complications. One of the major issues it that there may be an expectation that employees are required to work harder on the four days they are at work – this could add to employees’ stress levels and potentially exacerbate existing concerns about quality of life. Organisations may therefore need to re-consider how they measure productivity and what is expected of employees during their working week. 

There will also be challenges in relation to an organisation’s part-time workers. Employees who currently work a four-day week will be earning less money than their full-time counterparts. Organisations will need to consider how its part-time workforce will be affected and whether those employees get a pay increase. Failing to do this could put an organisation at risk of tribunal claims.

Organisations may also run into issues in regards to who works on what days. Assuming the business shall remain open between Monday to Friday, employees’ working patterns may need to be split to ensure there is sufficient capacity within the workforce on each day – a business would undoubtedly run into issues if everyone chose to not work on Fridays. This may be difficult to manage from an employee relations perspective and organisations will need to carefully consider how this will work in practice and how working patterns will be determined.

Nonetheless, despite the above challenges, the move towards flexible working is positive and employers should be considering their flexible working practices to retain staff and set themselves apart from competitors. Whether employers will move towards a four-day working week is yet to be seen. The four-day working week pilot scheme has enlisted researchers to measure the impact on productivity in the business and worker wellbeing, as well as the impact on the environment and gender equality in the organisations taking part. I am sure we will all be eagerly awaiting the outcome of the results.

For guidance on flexible working, please contact Stone King’s Employment Law Team or your usual contact at Stone King who will allocate your query.