Could we be closer to piloting a four day working week in Wales?

Research found 62% of the public would like a shorter working week if there was no decrease in salary. Credit: PA Images.

Wales should trial a four-day working week for public service workers, a Senedd’s Petitions Committee report has urged.

The Petitions Committee said a pilot could work with trials already being held in the private sector, and say global evidence from countries who are making moves towards trialling or introducing new working patterns, should be considered.

The report argues a four-day working week could boost productivity, improve workers wellbeing with a better work-life balance, be more beneficial for the environment due to reduced commuting and contribute to greater gender equality, with men taking on more responsibility for unpaid care and housework.

It also outlined some of the concerns about potential negative impacts of a four-day week, stating: "Some workers are already over-worked, and moving to a four-day week would exacerbate the stress-related challenges they face."

Similarly, the report questioned whether a four-day week is "too rigid an approach when greater flexibility is required in the workplace."

It also warned some sectors including education, health, hospitality and personal services may struggle to "replicate their productivity or be able to operate within a four-day week".

Chair of the Senedd’s Petitions Committee, Jack Sargeant MS, said that despite it being a "bold proposal", it's "no more bold than those campaigners who fought for a five day week, paid holiday and sick pay which we now take for granted.“People in Wales work some of the longest hours in Europe. Despite these long hours the UK lags behind on productivity, once we break that link of ‘hours worked equalling productivity’ we can start to look at a four-day week differently. 

“Experiments are being conducted around the world – but we will have a much stronger knowledge of how they fit our circumstances here in Wales if we conduct our own trials. I hope the Welsh Government will consider our call for a modest experiment in our public sector, so that future debates on this subject will be more fully informed by evidence from Welsh people on the economic, social and environmental impacts of a four-day week.”

The calls come as a result of a Senedd Petition by social entrepreneur Mark Hooper from Barry.

Welcoming the report, Mr Hooper said: “This is a major step forward towards a world where we have a better relationship with work. Today, our lives are too often dominated by how we earn our living and that makes us more ill, sadder and ultimately less productive.”

The world's largest ever trial in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 was recently hailed as an "overwhelming success", while in Japan, a trial at Microsoft saw productivity went up by 40%, according to researchers.

The report will now be sent to Welsh Government for consideration.