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What has the four day working week trial revealed?

Many of you will have heard about the ‘four day working week trial’ that has taken place –  over a six month period this saw employees in 61 companies reduce their working days from five to four with no loss of pay.

The trial has attracted considerable attention with the feasibility of a four day working week being subject to much debate. So what did the trial reveal? Firstly, a headline grabbing 92% of participating business are now continuing with the new working arrangements, 18 of them on a permanent basis.

What did we learn?

It’s reported that the majority of participating companies were satisfied with productivity and business performance during the trial.

It was found that there was a reduction in sick days by about two-thirds and staff retention was improved with 57% fewer employees leaving participating companies compared with the same period in the previous year.

Employees also felt the benefit of the change to working hours with surveys of participating employees showing that 39% were less stressed, 54% found it easier to balance work and home responsibilities and 40% were sleeping better.

Are you considering a 4-day workweek?

A four-day working week is not right – or possible – for every business but it may leave you thinking about whether doing things differently could see your business reaping rewards.

In recent years many businesses have found themselves thinking differently about how, when, and where employees work as business needs, viewpoints, and technology have evolved.

If you are assessing whether you might wish to make changes in your business that could affect your employees here are three things to think about from an HR perspective:

Careful planning is required

Identify the change/s you wish to make and why (remember proposed changes shouldn’t breach the law e.g. that around working time).

Consider what you expect to achieve, which employees would be affected and how it could impact them (and if there are any potential negative effects if / how these could be mitigated).

Think about the timing of any proposed changes. It’s also important to think about how your proposals are likely to be viewed by employees – broadly welcomed? Highly contentious? Can you spot any possible problem areas?

Spending time thoroughly considering these things at the planning stage can really pay off later. In the right circumstances, staff surveys can be a useful tool to gain initial insight from employees.

Stay alert to your employee's rights

Bear in mind that changing terms and conditions such as those relating to working hours, will usually require consultation with employees and obtaining their agreement.

Simply imposing changes on employees can give rise to the risk of employment tribunal claims, such as constructive unfair dismissal.

If employees are unwilling to agree to changes, there is action that can usually be taken but you should seek advice first as the situation will need careful and appropriate handling.

Be mindful that in some circumstances businesses are under a duty to collectively consult regarding proposed changes to terms and conditions and this requires additional steps to be taken.

Stay alert to your employee's rights

Remember that any agreed changes need to be appropriately documented – it may sound obvious but the last thing you need is an avoidable dispute later about what was (or wasn’t) agreed.

As you would expect, you should also keep good records of the consultation process should you need to evidence your actions in the future.

There can be a lot to think about if you are considering making changes in your business that affect employees’ terms and conditions, but we are here to help.

We would always recommend you get in touch to discuss your proposals before taking any action. We can provide tailored advice to help you from planning to processes and addressing your HR concerns. 

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