Switching to a four-day week in the public sector could create up to half a million jobs, a new report has said.
The move, with workers remaining on full pay, would help ease an expected spike in unemployment in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Autonomy think tank found.
The study said that the total cost of the initiative would be £9 billion a year.
Autonomy said this represented 6% of the public sector salary bill and was the same amount as the furlough employment scheme brought in after the Covid-19 outbreak.
The report said it would be possible for workers in the public sector to switch to a 32-hour week with no loss in wages.
Such a move would have the biggest impact in so-called “Red Wall” seats in the North of England and the Midlands which were taken from Labour by the Conservatives in the December general election, according to the study.
Will Stronge, of Autonomy, said: “The time has come for a four-day working week and the public sector should act as the pioneer for it, both as employer and as procurer of services.
“To help tackle the unemployment crisis we are facing this winter, a four-day week is the best option for sharing work more equally across the economy and creating much needed new jobs.
“The four-day week makes so much sense as it would boost productivity, create new jobs and make us all much happier and healthier.”
The report stated: “‘Red Wall’ areas including Barnsley, Bradford and Doncaster, where around 20% of overall employment exists in the public sector, would stand to benefit much more than the South East where public sector employment takes up a relatively lower proportion of employment.”
The think tank said such a move could have a beneficial health impact.
The study said: “More than two-thirds of UK workers are stressed or overworked in their jobs and according to the Health and Safety Executive, one in four of all sick days lost are the direct result of overwork.”